NASA wants to land astronauts on Mars in the next decade through a high-stakes mission that could take 5 years to complete. However, ferrying enough oxygen and fuel on a spacecraft to sustain the mission for that period of time isn’t currently viable.
NASA plans to address this problem by deploying MOXIE, or the Mars Oxygen in Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. This system is in a testing phase on the Mars Perseverance rover which launched in July. Mars’ air is 96% carbon dioxide and the apparatus’ work is to convert the deadly gas into oxygen.
Comparatively, on Mars, oxygen is only 0.13% of the atmosphere to Earth’s 21% oxygen level in its atmosphere.
Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis have now said they possibly have a solution that could complement MOXIE. The MOXIE system basically produces oxygen like a tree transpiring whereby it takes in the Martian air with a pump. Thereafter, with the help of an electro-chemical process, two oxygen atoms are separated from each molecule of Carbon Dioxide.
How the process will work
The experimental technique proposed by Vijay Ramani and his colleagues uses a completely different resource – salty water in lakes beneath the Martian surface.
The study by Ramani, a distinguished professor at Washington University’s department of energy, environmental and chemical engineering was published last week.
The MOXIE team at NASA will study how the little, toaster-size version operates on the perseverance rover. They will further apply lessons learned for developing a larger and more powerful system for a crewed mission.
The experiment will help researchers determine how a number of environmental factors on mars affect the MOXIE. They also want to find out how radiation could impact its software.
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