11 September 2023
In February 2021, when the small Perseverance rover landed on Mars, a small gold box named MOXIE arrived with it. This toaster-sized machine was designed to start revolutionizing space exploration by producing oxygen on Mars.
MOXIE, which stands for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, soon began to live up to its name, generating oxygen with impressive efficiency. He continued to do this until August 7, when this small but powerful device created 9.8 grams of oxygen during the 16th last launch.
MOXIE close-up. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
On September 6, NASA announced that the MOXIE mission was completed. During its existence, the device has produced 122 grams of "Martian oxygen" — about as much as a small dog inhales in 10 hours and 2 times more than scientists expected from MOXIE.
In the most efficient mode, MOXIE produced 12 grams of oxygen every hour, which was at least 98% pure.
"When the first astronauts land on Mars, they can thank the descendants of the device for the air they breathe and the rocket fuel that will take them home," NASA representatives said.
Oxygen production on Mars has two main advantages. First, it is important that future astronauts have the maximum amount of oxygen supply for the duration of their stay.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, oxygen is a key component of rocket fuel. When space agencies send astronauts to Mars, it won't be a one-way excursion. Mission planners must send enough rocket fuel to the planet so that the crew can travel back to Earth at the end of their missions. And the amount of fuel required for the return flight will be quite significant.
For example, it will take about 6,800 kilograms of rocket fuel and 24,950 kilograms of oxygen to get four astronauts off the surface of Mars. And this is 24,950 kilograms of oxygen that the crew must take with them to Mars, not to mention other cargo that will also need to be transported.
And so scientists came up with the idea — why not save weight by producing oxygen right on Mars? This will be more economical and, in general, will make humanity's dream of a future Martian society much more feasible.…
The MOXIE mission ended with a bright success. Now the team says that the next step will not be the creation of MOXIE 2.0, but a full-fledged system that includes a MOXIE unit in combination with a method of storing and liquefying all created oxygen.