Mars continues to be the protagonist of April, reaching today all the specialized media with the news that a device onboard its Perseverance rover managed to convert the air of the red planet into breathable oxygen.
The news comes after the successful flight of its Ingenuity helicopter, a kind of drone that has to rotate its propellers at very high speed to be able to fly in the very thin atmosphere of Mars.
Being able to extract oxygen from Mars is important to be able, one day, to use the technique for astronauts on that planet, even to be able to use it in the take-off process of a future rocket, since oxygen is necessary for combustion.
The extraction has been done thanks to a device the size of a toaster made of various heat-tolerant materials (it is designed to survive temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius). It is the MOXIE, Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, and is aboard Perseverance.
MOXIE captures carbon dioxide-rich Martian air, heats it internally to a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius, and separates the oxygen atoms from those CO2 molecules. It then emits carbon monoxide into the air as a byproduct.
NASA noted that MOXIE produced about 5 grams of oxygen on its first attempt, enough for an astronaut to breathe for about 10 minutes. The device is capable of generating up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.
MOXIE will run this oxygen extraction exercise at least nine more times over the next two years.