This past week, NASA has successfully extracted oxygen from carbon dioxide on another planet, Mars, for the first time in history.
The extraction was done using an experimental instrument the size of a toaster, while on top of the Perseverance rover called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) on the 60th Martian day since the rover landed in late February.
While the technology that made this extraction possible is still in the early stages, it could potentially transform science fiction into reality through storing isolated oxygen on Mars to create an interplanetary space fuel station.
Both the rockets and astronauts need oxygen, said MOXIE’s principal investigator, Michael Hecht of MIT’s Haystack Observatory. It would require around 25 metric tons of oxygen for a trip to Mars, according to NASA experts. Currently, this figure poses a significant issue, as it would be difficult to transport that much oxygen.
Experts are proposing the theory of transporting a one-ton oxygen converter instead. It’s more efficient and practical to transport this relative of MOXIE that’s capable of producing the needed oxygen.
The atmosphere of Mars is composed of 96 percent carbon dioxide. MOXIE functions by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules. The carbon monoxide is then released into the Martian atmosphere as a waste product.