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Moxie Mars and MIT: NASA’s Key to Martian Oxygen Generation

by | Sep 9, 2023 at 5:17PM | Science

As humanity’s fascination with the cosmos continues to grow, the dream of sending humans to Mars is inching ever closer to reality. One of the key challenges in this endeavor is ensuring that future Mars missions have a sustainable source of oxygen for astronauts to breathe and use for various purposes.

Enter MOXIE, short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization, a groundbreaking device nestled within NASA’s Perseverance Rover. MOXIE’s mission is straightforward yet monumental: to investigate whether Mars’ thin and primarily carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere can be transformed into breathable oxygen. Over the course of two years, this remarkable machine has been diligently running tests and experiments to unlock the answer to this pivotal question.



How MOXIE Functions

MOXIE is a testament to human ingenuity and scientific collaboration, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) playing a crucial role in its development. This cutting-edge instrument operates by leveraging a process known as solid oxide electrolysis. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how MOXIE works:

  1. Ingesting Martian Air: MOXIE takes in the Martian atmosphere, which consists of approximately 95% carbon dioxide (CO2).
  2. Separating the Oxygen: Inside MOXIE, the carbon dioxide molecules are subjected to a process called electrolysis. In this method, an electric current is passed through a solid oxide electrolyte, which helps break down the CO2 molecules.
  3. Producing Oxygen: Through electrolysis, carbon dioxide is split into carbon monoxide and oxygen ions. The oxygen ions, being positively charged, migrate through the solid oxide electrolyte to the opposite side.
  4. Collecting Oxygen: On the other side of the solid oxide electrolyte, the oxygen ions recombine to form molecular oxygen (O2), which is then collected and stored for future use.

This ingenious process allows MOXIE to gradually accumulate oxygen over time, with the potential to provide a sustainable source of breathable air on Mars.

What MOXIE Mars Expedition  Means for MIT and NASA

The successful operation of MOXIE is a significant milestone in humanity’s quest to explore and eventually colonize Mars. But what does it mean for the future of space exploration and the dream of establishing a human presence on the Red Planet?

  1. Sustainability for Future Missions: MOXIE’s ability to produce oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere marks a crucial step towards self-sustaining human missions to Mars. The reduction of dependence on Earth for vital supplies like oxygen is a game-changer for long-duration missions.
  2. Preparation for Human Colonization: Mars’ thin atmosphere is inhospitable for humans due to its lack of breathable oxygen. MOXIE’s success brings us one step closer to addressing this challenge and making Mars a potential habitat for future colonists.
  3. Expanding Our Cosmic Horizons: Beyond Mars, MOXIE’s technology could be adapted for future missions to other celestial bodies with similarly inhospitable atmospheres, further expanding our reach into the cosmos.

MOXIE’s achievements, coupled with the collaborative efforts of NASA and MIT, are a testament to human innovation and determination. The successful generation of oxygen on Mars not only sets the stage for future exploration but also redefines the realm of possibilities for human presence in the vast expanse of space. As we celebrate MOXIE’s accomplishments, we look forward to a future where humanity takes its next giant leap towards becoming a multi-planetary species.


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