Home Technology MIT’s lunchbox-sized machine can produce oxygen on Mars

MIT’s lunchbox-sized machine can produce oxygen on Mars

MIT’s lunchbox-sized machine can produce oxygen on Mars


Ahead-looking: Oxygen will likely be a necessary component of any crewed Mars mission. Producing it on the pink planet may very well be way more environment friendly than transport it from Earth, and up to date NASA experiments counsel the concept is viable. The oxygen is usually for gas moderately than respiration.

All through 2021, a machine NASA despatched to Mars with its 2020 Perseverance rover — referred to as the Mars Oxygen In Situ Useful resource Utilization (ISRU) Experiment (MOXIE) — created round 50 grams of oxygen from the planet’s principally Carbon Dioxide environment. A current MIT analysis paper explains how a lunchbox-sized machine efficiently produced oxygen on Mars and the way researchers may enlarge its operations. The experiment is an preliminary step towards sustainable human Mars exploration.

The lunchbox-sized gadget absorbs and compresses CO2 from the environment, then heats it to 800C. The method then electrolyzes it by means of a strong oxide meeting and decompresses it into oxygen and Carbon Monoxide. The machine may verify its purity and amount. Because the experiments have been a part of a proof of idea, the gadget launched the ensuing components as an alternative of storing them.

Alone, this is not a lot, solely producing 6-8 grams per hour. Nonetheless, scaling the method up lots of of occasions may resolve a big drawback going through manned Mars exploration.

Astronauts would not simply want oxygen to breathe but additionally for gas. Lifting a six-person crew off the floor of the pink planet requires about 31 tons of oxygen (together with different components). Bringing that a lot oxygen from Earth would take round 500 tons for every mission as a result of gas necessities to flee Earth’s environment. Creating oxygen on Mars can be far less expensive if the expertise may achieve this shortly.

A scaled-up MOXIE may want to supply 2-3kg of oxygen per hour and function on Mars for slightly over two years earlier than a crew of astronauts arrives. Nonetheless, this technique could solely be a step in direction of the Martian ingredient researchers actually need for oxygen manufacturing — water.

Mars missions may use the water trapped within the planet’s glaciers, permafrost, and probably moist soil to create oxygen and methane for gas. Nonetheless, extracting it could require advanced ice mining, melting, water purification, and transport operations. Early missions may oxidize some gas on Mars whereas transport the remaining from Earth and constructing the infrastructure to entry the pink planet’s water.

Researchers nonetheless want to research any unexpected issues in MOXIE’s scalability and long-term sturdiness.



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