Transform Martian air into oxygen: successful operation for Perseverance!

Illustration de Perseverance sur Mars. © Tryfonov, Adobe Stock

It’s been 18 months since Perseverance examines the Martian soil, with a whole series of instruments and experimental equipment on board. Among other things, a small box called Moxie for Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. The Moxie instrument has certainly gone under the radar for to new discoveries made by NASA’s Mars rover. However, his role is crucial in preparing for a possible manned mission to the Red Planet. Because if the absence of free oxygen in theatmosphere of Mars in no way interferes with the operation of Perseverance, this is not the case for the future astronautsthat it will need a substantial supply of oxygen to live on the planet’s surface for several months.

Oxygen, an essential element in the preparation of future manned missions

Taking this into account, there are two possible options: import oxygen from Earth or produce this element directly on Mars. Being the first costly solution in terms of space and fuel, the MIT scientists (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) so he considered the second option. That was how Moxie was integrated into Perseverance.

As soon as it landed, the little instrument began to work and produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere rich in COtwo. The results were quickly very promising (see our previous article, below). However, the performance of the system remained to be tested over time, but also under highly variable atmospheric conditions. In fact, the Martian atmosphere is subject to significant variations, in particular in temperature and density, especially between day and night, but also between the different seasons. During the year, the density of the air can vary by a factor of 2 and the temperature by 100°C.

Optimum performance in all seasons.

A new study, published in Progress of science, takes stock of these 18 months of operation. And it is clear that the operation is quite successful for Moxie. In each test, the instrument achieved its goal of producing six grams of pure oxygen per hour, or the equivalent of the amount produced by a small tree on Earth.

However, it was not obvious that Moxie manages to support the stress heat imposed by the planet and works optimally in all seasons.

The goal now is to maximize oxygen production during the Martian spring, but also to test the operation of the device inSunrise and at dusk, two times of the day when the temperature changes quickly and noticeably.

Larger-scale production before a future manned mission

If the latest tests prove conclusive, this system, on a much larger scale and in continuous operation, could be considered to produce oxygen before the arrival of a manned mission. The goal would be to produce the same amount that several hundred trees would produce. This would not only cover the needs of the astronauts, but also fill the tanks before their return from Earth.

This experiment is especially noteworthy because it is the first use in the place of Martian resources. A first that could pave the way for the use of other materials from the planet to support the life of astronauts on the surface of March.

Perseverance: Oxygen has been produced on another planet for the first time!

For perseverance, the last homeless of the POT Perched on Mars since last February, the successes follow one another. NASA has just announced a new first: an instrument on board has just produced oxygen using the elements available on site.

article of Nathalie Mayer published on April 27, 2021

If men want one day conquer the planet mars, they will have to learn to produce their oxygen on the spot. By using elements from the environment of this world. It is with this in mind that NASA engineers have imagined Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. A demonstrator the size of a Car battery affectionately nicknamed Moxie, brought to the Red Planet by the Perseverance rover.

And this Tuesday, April 20, it was tested for the first time. Successfully. Moxie has converted some of the oxygen (O) in the thin layer toatmosphere of marsan environment rich in carbon dioxide (COtwo). It produced about five grams, enough to allow an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes.

Moxie still has work to do, but the results of this technology demonstration are very promising as we move towards our goal of seeing humans on Mars one day.”said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a release. “Oxygen is not just what we breathe. The engines of our rockets they depend on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on oxygen production on Mars to get them home. »

Before we continue, let’s look at some numbers. NASA says that a rocket would need 25 tons of oxygen to take off from the Martian surface and seven tons of fuel to return to Earth. To produce that much oxygen, a one ton Moxie would be needed. While the one attached to the right front of the perseverance vehicle weighs less than 20kg. But it should be noted that during a full year on Mars, a human colonist would consume only a ton of oxygen.

Oxygen production cycles yet to come

To avoid having to transport so much oxygen from Earth to Mars, engineers imagined recovering, with emissions carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO), produced during poor combustion of organic fuels (wood, butane,…” data-image=” a/0 /b /a0bc7dcd90_50034618_carbon-monoxide.jpg” data-url=”” data-more=”Read more”>carbon monoxide (CO) — the atoms available oxygen in COtwo which represents 96% of the tenuous atmosphere of Mars. The Moxie demonstrator was initially intended to show the possibility of making such an instrument travel to the Red planet. Then move on to the experimental oxygen extraction phase for the next two years.

Please note that the process of separation atoms is produced at temperatures of about 800°C. Therefore, the Moxie was designed accordingly. Alloy Parts There are three main families of alloys:
iron-based alloys, copper-based alloys, copper-based alloys…” data-image=” / 0431441993_110679_alloy-bronze .jpg” data-url=”” data-more=”Read more”>alloy of nickel that heat and cool the gas going through them, a silica airgel
An airgel is…” data-image=”” data-url=”https://news” data-more=”Read more”>airgel which helps retain heat Physicists refer to heat as thermal energy. In the international system, therefore, it is measured in joules (J). Heat corresponds more precisely to a transfer…” data-image=”” data-url=” https ://” data-more=”Read more”>heat and a thin layer of gold that prevents it from radiating outward and damaging other parts of Perseverance.

Now that the first test has been successfully completed, the production cycles will proceed as follows. A first phase will be used to verify and characterize the operation of the instrument. A second phase will operate the instrument under different atmospheric conditions, such as different times of day and different seasons. In a third phase, engineers have “Overcome Limits” testing new modes of operation, for example.

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