NASA’s rover extracts oxygen from Mars in step closer to humans visiting planet

Nasa has produced oxygen on Mars which could pave the way for human visitors to the Red Planet.

The space agency's Perseverance rover has created the gas life on Earth depends upon, out of Mars' thin carbon dioxide atmosphere.

As well as allowing astronauts to step foot on the planet, NASA says the oxygen produced from the Martian atmosphere could be used to to help power rockets back to Earth.

But that still remains ambitious as rockets would need nearly seven metric tons of rocket fuel and 25 metric tons of oxygen to launch off Mars, The Independent reports.

The toaster-sized instrument aboard the rover which achieved the scientific breakthrough is known as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE.

Associate Administrator of Nasa’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), Jim Reuter said: “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars.”

NASA says MOXIE could be a “far more economical and practical” than the “arduous task” of taking tons of oxygen to Mars.

The device works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) molecules in the Martian atmosphere, NASA says.

The 5g of oxygen MOXIE produced would provide an astronaut up to ten minutes of breathable oxygen, but it is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

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NASA explained the Perseverance rover carried out the operation just to check MOXIE still worked after being transported through space for nearly seven months.

Over the next two years, NASA plans for MOXIE to extract oxygen at least nine more times following the success of it becoming the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world.

Thanks to MOXIE, NASA says future astronauts will be able to live off planets' environments which is known as in-situ resource utilisation.

Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within STMD said: “It’s taking regolith, the substance you find on the ground, and putting it through a processing plant, making it into a large structure, or taking carbon dioxide -the bulk of the atmosphere – and converting it into oxygen.

“This process allows us to convert these abundant materials into useable things: propellant, breathable air, or, combined with hydrogen, water."

The Perseverance rover’s mission on Mars is for NASA to better understand the planet’s geology, its past climate, and how humans could survive on the Red Planet.

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