Carbon Dioxide from Mars Converted into Oxygen

Carbon Dioxide from Mars Converted into Breathable Oxygen

NASA has added another extraterrestrial first on its Mars Mission with converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the US space agency said.

A toaster-size, experimental instrument aboard Perseverance named ‘Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment’ (MOXIE) accomplished the task, the NASA said in a statement. The test took place on April 20, the 60th Martian day, since the mission landed on February 18.

In this first operation, MOXIE’S Oxygen production was quite modest – about 5 grams, equivalent to about 10 minutes worth of breathable oxygen for an astronaut. MOXIE is designed to generate up to 10 grams of the gas per hour.


Associate administrator for Space Technology Mission Directorate Jim Reuter said this is a critical first step at converting, carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars. “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars. Oxygen is not just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant also depends on it and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home,” he said.

The finding could pave the way for isolating and storing the gas on Mars to help power rockets that could lift astronauts off the planet’s surface. These devices also might one day provide breathable air for astronauts themselves. MOXIE is an exploration technology investigation as is the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) weather station – and is sponsored 59 NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

MOXIE’s principal investigator Michael Hecht of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory maintained that oxygen was necessary for astronauts and rockets. To burn its fuel, a rocket must have more oxygen by weight. Getting four astronauts off the Martian surface on a future mission would require approximately 15.000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel and 55.000 pounds (25 metric tons) of oxygen. In contrast, astronauts living and working on Mars would require far less oxygen to breathe, the Space Agency said.

“The astronauts who spend a year on the surface may use one metric ton between them.” Hecht said. Hauling 25 metric tons of oxygen from Earth to Mars would be an arduous task. Transporting a one-ton converter — a larger, more powerful descendant of MOXIE that could produce those 25 tons – would be far more economical and practical, NASA said.


Mars’ atmosphere is 96 per cent carbon dioxide. MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules that are made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. A waste product carbon monoxide is emitted into the Martian atmosphere. Director of Technology demonstrations within STMD Trudy Kortes, opined: “MOXIE isn’t just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world. It’s the first technology of its kind that will help future missions “live off the land,” using elements of another world’s environment, also known as in-situ resource utilization.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here