The US space agency (NASA) Perseverance ‘rover' continues to make history
An instrument attached to the six-wheeled explorer transformed carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. This is the first time this has happened on another planet, NASA said on Wednesday (21).
“This is a critical step in transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's space technology mission directorate.
The demonstration was made on April 20 and subsequent versions of the experimental instrument used are expected to pave the way for human space exploration in the future.
The process could not only produce oxygen for future astronauts to breathe, but it could also avoid transporting large amounts of oxygen from Earth to use it as a rocket propellant on the return journey.
The In Situ Oxygen Use Experiment on Mars (MOXIE) consists of a golden box the size of a car battery and is in front and to the right of the ‘rover'.
Nicknamed the “mechanical tree”, it uses electricity and chemistry to divide carbon dioxide molecules, made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms.
As a by-product, it also produces carbon monoxide.
In its first run, MOXIE produced 5 grams of oxygen, the equivalent of ten minutes of breathable oxygen for an astronaut who performs the normal activity.
Engineers at MOXIE – designed to produce up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour – will now run more tests and try to increase their efficiency.
Designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), MOXIE was built with heat-resistant materials, such as nickel alloy, to tolerate the 800 Celsius temperatures required for its operation.
A thin layer of gold ensures that it does not radiate heat and damage the ‘rover'.
MIT engineer Michael Hecht said a one-ton version of MOXIE could produce the approximately 25 tons of oxygen needed for a rocket to take off from Mars.
Producing oxygen in the Martian atmosphere, 96% carbon dioxide, could be a more feasible option than doing it by extracting ice under the surface and then subjecting it to electrolysis.
Perseverance landed on the red planet on February 18 on a mission to look for signs of microbial life.
His mini-helicopter Ingenuity made history this week by making the first flight on another planet.
The rover himself recorded the sounds of Mars directly for the first time.
Source: Futuro – Plataforma Media by plataformamedia.com.
The article has been translated based on the content of Futuro – Plataforma Media by plataformamedia.com.
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