THE growing list of “firsts” for Perseverance, NASA’s newest six-wheeled robot on the Martian surface, includes converting some of the Red Planet’s thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere into oxygen. In a press release, NASA said that a toaster-size, experimental instrument aboard Perseverance called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) accomplished the task. The test took place April 20, the 60th Martian day, or sol, since the mission landed on February 18. “While the technology demonstration is just getting started, it could pave the way for science fiction to become science fact - isolating and storing oxygen on Mars to help power rockets that could lift astronauts off the planet’s surface.
Such devices also might one day provide breathable air for astronauts themselves. MOXIE is an exploration technology investigation - as is the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) weather station - and is sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate,” NASA said. “This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for STMD. “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars.”