When it comes to living on Mars, there’s one major problem that will affect future astronauts: oxygen, or rather, a lack thereof.
But an instrument called Moxie – the Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilisation Experiment – could provide a solution.
It will attempt to turn carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen when it is taken to the red planet by a new Nasa rover in 2020 – and it could be a precursor to similar technologies on manned misisons.
Speaking to Business Insider, former astronaut and principle investigator for the instrument Dr Jeffrey Hoffman explained the project.
‘It will be the first time when we will actually produce oxygen on the surface of Mars,’ he said.
The atmosphere of Mars is 96 per cent carbon dioxide and less than 0.2 per cent oxygen, but the team hope to convert the former into 99.6 per cent pure oxygen.
To do so, it gathers carbon dioxide from its surroundings and isolates oxygen atoms, then combines them to make O2 – breathable air.
On this occasion, together with the by-product of carbon monoxide, the gases will be released back into the air.
But proving the technology works would have important implications for future missions – and not just for breathable air, but fuel as well.
‘Ultimately, the idea is that Nasa would send both an empty rocket and a larger version of Moxie to Mars, before a planned human mission,’ writes Jessica Orwig for Business Insider.
‘The oxygen-producing machine would take about a year and a half to fill the rocket with enough liquid oxygen for lift off.
‘Then, when astronauts arrived, they would have a rocket fueled up and ready for launch to take them home.’
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover is a planned £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) roving laboratory, similar to the Mars Curiosity rover currently on the planet.
Moxie was selected from 58 instrument proposals from research teams around the world.
If the technology can be proven, it would greatly reduce the weight of a future mission to Mars – 75 per cent of a manned Mars mission would be taken up by oxygen, or equipment carrying it.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2977893/Can-produce-oxygen-Mars-Scientists-attempt-prove-technology-red-planet-2020.html#ixzz3TNqohhMu
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