NASA Makes Oxygen on Mars

NASA has generated oxygen on Mars for the first time.

The Perseverance rover — or specifically, a little device within it — created his ground-breaking step toward future human missions to Mars. MOXIE — Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment instrument — converts the gases from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. It separates an oxygen atom from a molecule of carbon dioxide. CO2 is abundant on the Red Planet.

During its first operation in 2021, it created five grams of oxygen, approximately 10 minutes worth of oxygen for an astronaut. Since then, it has generated a total of 122 grams of oxygen, about what a small dog would breathe in 10 hours.

At its most efficient, it produced 12 grams of almost pure oxygen in one hour, twice what NASA was hoping for.

“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is feasible to extract oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere –- oxygen that could help supply breathable air or rocket propellant to future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.

A high resolution aerial image of the Perseverance Rover landing on Mars

High-Resolution still image of Perseverance’s Landing. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech


Next steps

The next step for the research team is to create a larger version of MOXIE that can generate oxygen, liquify it, then store it.

While the potential to create oxygen is exciting, the real focus of the Perseverance mission was looking for signs of microbial life. The rover has collected samples of rock and dust, which will eventually be brought back to Earth.

The upcoming Artemis lunar mission is being used to help prepare for sending humans to Mars. These Artemis missions will ultimately lead to a permanent base on the moon’s surface. This will act as blue print for future missions to Mars.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 on July 30, 2020

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover lifts off on July 30, 2020. Photo: United Launch Alliance/NASA

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.