Moxie will make oxygen on Mars


"Many of the tools are designed as experimental steps toward human exploration of the red planet. Crucially, Perseverance is equipped with a device called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE: an attempt to produce oxygen on a planet where it makes up less than 0.2 percent of the atmosphere.

Oxygen is a cumbersome payload on space missions. It takes up a lot of room, and it's very unlikely that astronauts could bring enough of it to Mars for humans to breathe there, let alone to fuel spaceships for the long journey home.

That's the problem MOXIE is looking to solve. The car-battery-sized robot is a roughly 1 percent scale model of the device scientists hope to one day send to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.

Like a tree, MOXIE works by taking in carbon dioxide, though it's designed specifically for the thin Martian atmosphere. It then electrochemically splits the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and combines the oxygen molecules into O2.

It analyses the O2 for purity, shooting for about 99.6 percent O2. Then it releases both the breathable oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet's atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen produced in tanks for eventual use by humans and rockets."


If this works it would be a game changer of the same magnitude as efforts to extract liquid water on Mars but also on Luna.  It is too expensive to haul oxygen or water for large scale use into orbit.  This would help change all that.  pl

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11 Responses to Moxie will make oxygen on Mars

  1. Great foresight in conducting this experiment now. My first question was what cranking out a lot of carbon monoxide do to the Martian atmosphere. The article answered it. The carbon monoxide would combine with free oxygen in the atmosphere to revert to CO2. At some point this MOXIE technology would have to release some oxygen to the atmosphere to keep the process going without totally depleting the Martian atmosphere of oxygen, but that’s long way down the road. This reminds me of the alien created oxygen generators in “Total Recall.” I wonder if this small MOXIE has been tested in a closed atmosphere for an extended period of time to see what happens CO is produced on a massive scale.

  2. Marty Heyman says:

    So NASA has access to usable CO2 to C and O conversion technology. How about we deploy it here where it is already needed? Just asking for a friend 😉

  3. Fred says:

    Interesting concept. I wonder what the life expectancy of this equipment is? Presumably it could run 24/7. I wonder also what the O2 output would be with a full scale model, if this works as projected.

  4. walrus says:

    As an experiment – yes. For terraforming we need something that will grow. Carbon monoxide is a toxic byproduct.

  5. Martin Oline says:

    Thank you, this was an interesting article. If it works at the rate they hope, the full sized machine would provide enough oxygen for a crew of four. I suppose two would be needed in case something doesn’t work right.

  6. ked says:

    the Warlord of Mars approves of Atmosphere Plants.

  7. EEngineer says:

    Even better: also crack water into H2 and O2 and convert the CO and H2 into methane (CH4) with the Sabatier reaction. I suspect that there’s a great deal of water on Mars, you’ll just have to dig for it. Given the flatness of the surface of most of the planet I wonder if there are actually the remains of frozen oceans buried there.

  8. A. Pols says:

    Water cracked to produce Hydrogen as fuel and oxygen, CO2 cracked to produce oxygen? All perfectly feasible providing you have a power source. All these molecular reactions require a lot of energy input in the form of electricity. That’s always been the bugaboo of all these technical proposals and until that’s solved none of these ideas will fly. Once there is a practical (and practical implies economically practical, at least to me) source of concentrated energy, then all kinds of wonders can happen…

  9. Deap says:

    Totally off topic, but wait until the final punch line and it might fit into the current Zeitgeist – a worthy small diversion for those who love words – a Shakespearean take on The Three Little Pigs.
    Dedicated to those who think there is no humor left in our current times:

  10. J says:

    Speaking of space, it seems the Cosmonauts at the ISS may have captured UFO footage. Russian astronaut Ivan Vagner appears to have captured footage of 5 UFOs flying over the southern hemisphere. The footage has been sent to experts at Roscosmos for further analysis. Vagner was shooting a time lapse video of the peak of the Aurora Borealis while flying over the Antarctic.
    A copy of the video was also sent to the Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) and the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences for further study. Rossiya-24 channel.

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