The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is creating a Mars instrument
Called Moxie it will attempt to turn the planet's carbon dioxide into oxygen
It will be taken to the red planet by a new Nasa rover in 2020
The atmosphere of Mars is 96% carbon dioxide and less than 0.2% oxygen
Converting it could provide fuel and air for future manned missions
Published: 13:04 EST, 3 March 2015 | Updated: 14:17 EST, 3 March 2015
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.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is creating an instrument for Mars. Called Moxie (shown here in this illustration) it will attempt to turn the planet's carbon dioxide into oxygen. It will be taken to the red planet by a new unnamed Nasa rover in 2020
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.
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THE 2020 NASA MARS ROVER
This next-gen vehicle is the successor to the Curiosity rover, with upgraded hardware and instruments to examine Mars' rocks.
The rover will assess the potential of the environment for humans to live in one day and search for signs of Martian life.
It will identify and collect a collection of rock and soil samples, which it will be able to send back to Earth intact, via another spacecraft one day in the future.
Dr Charles Elachi, director of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has previously said that collecting a rock sample and bringing it back to Earth is Nasa's top priority.
Scientists are particularly interested in the samples so they can understand the hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate how oxygen can be created - details important to consider for human missions to Mars and the future colonisation of the planet.
The rover marks the next major step in fulfilling President Obama's challenge of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
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.
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. This could then be used for breathable air on future manned missions (illustrated) or even fuel to get them off the surface
Nasa's 2020 rover (illustrated) is the successor to the Curiosity rover, with upgraded hardware and instruments to examine Mars' rocks. The rover will assess the potential of the environment for humans to live in one day and search for signs of Martian life
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2977893/Can-produce-oxygen-Mars-Scientists-attempt-prove-technology-red-planet-2020.html