A lunchbox-sized robot has been producing oxygen from the Red Planet’s carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere since February 2021, reports PCMag.
MIT announced that the Mars Oxygen Resources Experiment (MOXIE) was deployed as part of NASA’s Perseverance rover mission. Over a year and a half, “MOXIE was able to produce oxygen on seven experimental runs, in a variety of atmospheric conditions, including during the day and night, and through different Martian seasons,” says the press release of the institute.
Currently, MOXIE produces about six grams of oxygen per hour, which MIT compares to “a modest tree on Earth,” but a larger version of the device should be able to produce even more oxygen, and even this relatively small amount could be an important breakthrough in Mars exploration.
“The current version of MOXIE is small by design, in order to fit aboard the Perseverance rover, and is built to run for short periods, starting up and shutting down with each run, depending on the rover’s exploration schedule and mission responsibilities,” said the Massachusetts technological institute. “In contrast, a full-scale oxygen factory would include larger units that would ideally run continuously.”
However, equipment capable of producing oxygen would need to be larger than the current iteration of MOXIE and capable of continuous operation to be a candidate for providing breathable air on Mars.
More information on MOXIE is available in Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)—Preparing for human Mars exploration, published by Science Advances on August 31.