back to article We admire your MOXIE, Earthlings: Perseverance rover gizmo produces oxygen for first time on Mars

Earthlings have succeeded in creating oxygen away from their lush home world and on the unforgiving dust planet Mars for the first time, using equipment on a robot they have lovingly dubbed Perseverance. The gas was created in what's been called MOXIE: the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. For this test, a " …

  1. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
    Alien

    However, carbon dioxide breathing space aliens

    See the use of chemical weapons as a declaration of war.

    "Damn you Earthlings, coming over here, trashing the environment."

    1. not.known@this.address Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: However, carbon dioxide breathing space aliens

      So in case we haven't messed up earth's atmosphere enough, now we go and start changing the martians' air too. And people wonder why we never get invited to off-world parties...

  2. John Jennings Bronze badge
    Boffin

    impressive

    Hats off there - while the tech has been known for some time - its a big deal to actually do it on another planet.

    aerogel is notoriously fragile stuff - I imagine that NASA has developed improvements in that and the design of the housing which could have applications here.

    eg - it would be easy to transport yer pfizer vaccine in a box with a layer of that round it....

    Or a flask which stays at temp for days

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: impressive

      This is not only impressive as a demonstration, it opens up a variety of possibilities.

      Any habitat will need a steady supply of oxygen and water extracted from subsurface ice is too valuable on its own to separate out the oxygen (except as fuel for a ground to orbit vehicle).

      There have already been studies done for using carbon monoxide and oxygen as a fuel source for Martian rockets to enable ground to ground transportation (they cannot generate enough thrust for ground to orbit).

      Improvements might supplement or replace spacesuit oxygen stores.

      Some people bliss out at oxygen bars. I bliss out at space oxygen research.

    2. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: impressive

      It says the device was 3D printed, presumably as proof of concept for a device that can be created onsite. Can aerogels also be created and applied in such an environment?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Pint

    How long

    did it take to produce that five grams of oxygen? I wonder if the next stage is to build an oxygen converter locally?

    CO2 can also be acquired from --->

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: How long

      From the description it sounds like it took around 30 minutes. Presumably the current limiting factors are energy input and size. Ideally, you'd also want to be able to source locally some kind of reduction agent in the hope of being able to reduce the temperature required. However, seeing as CO2 to CO is considered an essential part of our own renewables strategies, it's to be hoped that improvements here can be expected .

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: How long

        Wouldn't bringing a bunch of plants be a better strategy for oxygen generation in the long term? As well as producing CO2 they are also edible and produce their own replacements.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How long

          Plants need water. If you're talking really long term - like, post terraforming - then sure.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Water

            Water will be the key resource: by photosynthesis or synthetic methods,

            CO2 + H2O + energy -> sugars, cellulose + O2 = comfortable for humans.

            There's evidently plenty of CO2 and presumably enough solar energy, but

            not much obvious water, so I suppose there will be some effort to find it

            in "hidden" deposits and put your Turbinium Reactors or whatever there.

            1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

              Re: Water

              Whats currently missing is the hydrogen. If we bring enough with us on early missions we can use the local oxygen to make water. The heat or power generated by burning the hydrogen may also come in handy.

              Of course a local water supply would be even better.

              1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: Water

                I've said it before: now is the time to get to Saturn's rings and start nudging icebergs in the direction of Mars...

          2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: How long

            You can work in a sealed environment--no need to do the whole planet all at first. See: terrarium

        2. iron Silver badge

          Re: How long

          Plants need Oxygen. Yes they create O2 as a waste product of photosynthesis but they also require it for photorespiration, which is important for Nitrate assimilation and other processes.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: CO essential part of renewable strategy?

        Have you got a link for that? I ducked and ducked but the only place I went had CO as an intermediate in experimental attempts at: CO2+H2O+Lots of energy -> fuel + O2 -> CO2+H2O+Less energy

      3. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: How long

        The article talks of distillation, but Mashable mentions electrolysis of carbon dioxide at 1,400 °F.

        NASA: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/instruments/moxie/for-scientists/ confirms that it's electrolysis of carbon dioxide at ~1 Atmosphere* at 800 C.

        * presumably 1 Earth atmoshere, i.e. ~100,000 Pa

      4. very angry man

        Re: How long WTF!!

        seeing as CO2 to CO is considered an essential part of our own renewables strategies,

        Question!

        CO2 non toxic greenhouse gas

        CO very toxic ( it replaces oxygen in our red blood cells and then won't let go, so you suffocate from the inside, not pretty at all) colourless, odorless, and tends to puddle a certain locations.

        sunscreen is safer

    2. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Acquired from...

      Even those hip trendy modern brews that substitute Nitrogen?

      (OK, I'm just a bit irked because of wanting to read about some process to _produce_ Oxygen without some sort of nuclear reaction being involved.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Acquired from...

        I wonder why they don't just freeze out the carbon dioxide.

        That would leave a mixture of about 3.7% oxygen with the remainder being nitrogen (56%) and argon (41%); then I'd have thought you could increase the proportion of oxygen by fractional distillation.

        But presumably they thought of that already.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Acquired from...

          My first instinct would be that that probably requires even more energy for the refrigeration. CO2 might freeze at the poles, but I don't think you can shovel frozen oxygen up.

          1. cdrcat

            Not much energy is required

            Use a countercurrent heat exchanger - incoming air is cooled by the outgoing air. https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Countercurrent_exchange

  4. gerryg

    Cooking on gas...

    ...nah, they're sucking diesel

  5. x 7

    So whats the power source?

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Perseverance 2020 power system

      Plutonium dioxide and batteries - the same system that Curiosity uses.

      The lump of plutonium dioxide generated 110 watts at launch, so slightly less by now. The batteries are needed to store enough energy for processes that need more than 110 watts, e.g. driving the rover or running MOXIE and PIXL.

      (Slightly) more detail here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/electrical-power/

      1. x 7

        Re: Perseverance 2020 power system

        So..........to terraform Mars we need megatonnes of plutonium

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: Perseverance 2020 power system

          Or large solar arrays. If we can deal with the dust issue, then Mars has little in the way of clouds.

  6. Red Ted

    What do they do with the Carbon Monoxide?

    It's quite poisonous, so you wouldn't want to get any coming in to you habitat.

  7. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Very dubious acronym

    MOXIE: the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment

    Looks more like MOISRUE to me(*). At least the science is top notch.

    (*) With an added 'T' they could have got MOISTURE. Shame it wasn't extracting water.

  8. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    I don't get it.

    This isn't science. It's barely engineering. There was absolutely no question that the process would work. There was absolutely no question that the equipment would work, so long as it was not degraded. It seems to me that the biggest technical achievement was keeping the areogel intact for the trip--but really, we had very high confidence in that.

    I know NASA is desperate to remain relevant, but what, exactly does this demonstration do beyond spend money & inspire grade schoolers?

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: I don't get it.

      > There was absolutely no question that the process would work

      And I'm sure your code is unquestionably bug-free on the first compile.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I don't get it.

        And I'm equally sure that your code compiles on the first attempt.

    2. cdrcat

      Aerogel doesn't have to be fragile

      > It seems to me that the biggest technical achievement was keeping the areogel intact for the trip

      """not all aerogels are easy to break! Classic (or 'legacy') aerogels exhibit extremely high strength-to-weight ratios and are able (in principle) to hold thousands of times their weight in applied force, however also typically exhibit extremely low fracture toughness, that is, the ability to resist propagation of flaws in the material. As a result, it is possible for a classic aerogel block that is 96% air by volume to hold a brick thousands of times its own weight, but only if the weight is placed on the monolith gently and there are no major cracks in the aerogel.

      New mechanically strong and machinable aerogels such as Airloy® strong aerogels made by Aerogel Technologies fix this problem. Airloy aerogels are hundreds of times stronger and stiffer than classic aerogels and simultaneously durable and fracture tough. Unlike legacy aerogels, Airloy aerogels can be machined (drilled, tapped, turned, milled) and bent without breaking. The strength, stiffness, thermal conductivity, and other properties of Airloy aerogels depend on the product series."""

      http://www.aerogeltechnologies.com/about/faqs/

    3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: I don't get it.

      I know NASA is desperate to remain relevant, but what, exactly does this demonstration do beyond spend money & inspire grade schoolers? .... Claptrap314

      I don't understand how you don't get it, Claptrap314, whenever you have just got it so thoroughly.

      The founding fundamental raison d'être of NASA was always and still is the very successful inventive spend money and inspire grade schoolers platform which naturally morphs and expands and envelops into developments in some extremely advanced territories with alienating head space stations to prove as benign and productive and attractive whenever tested on Earth.

      If ignorant humanity is hell bent on buggering up life on Earth, a SMARTR Alien Race sustained and returned from novel terra-phorming outposts on the likes of Mars and Venus and the Moon will have experience vital beyond cost and price to rebuild a damaged and turned environmentally hostile home planet.

      It is certainly beyond question the much better and more pragmatic option to consider and unanimously choose whenever anyone pipes up with the ridiculous notion to transfer humanity lock, stock and barrel to another made environmentally friendly planet.

      Build Mars and Venus and Moon stations to support the existence and growth and expansion of life and productive and peaceful enjoyable alien co-habitation in a challenging space place and transfer the knowledge and technology used and tested back down to Earth for use there ......... build Simulations on TerraFirma and Realise and Create Earth as an Alien Invaded Space with Future Technology and Immaculate Treasure already long ago gifted for lavish debt free spending on every need that requires a feed and/or seeding.

      Surely that is Simple and Not Too Difficult to Do. After all, it is not as if you will be doing any of it without all of the help and information and intelligence that you would need, not being made freely available to you, is it ‽ . .......

      Or is that the source fundamental fear that presently renders the human condition in such dire catastrophic strait states with specific regard to future progression ........ they are nowhere near smart enough to make the requisite quantum leaps?

      Well, now that y'all know that the necessary smarts are easily provided virtually for free by a whole host and great cast of A.N.Others, what other excuses will some of you, and those with more time on their hands than sense in their heads and imagination conjure up to prove they are stagnating and effectively bankrupt of fabulous viable ideas and petrified of the future being terrifying* ..... a natural space of generally, normally unknown dimension and content, privy to One Almighty Few ‽ .

      * ... Which can also be easily done by a less than Almighty Few 2, too.

      Do y'all get all of that, or does it need to be translated and presented in another language for you to start to understand and be enabled and able to further and deeper comprehend? What other Earthly alien mother tongue would you prefer? There are so many of them.

  9. Imhotep Silver badge

    Of course there was the possibility that it might not work. There is always that possibility, which is why you actually test it.

    1. the Jim bloke

      Usually more useful when it doesnt work.

      Then you can ask "Why not?" and have something you can fix.

      If you dont discover problems, its time to devise a harder test...

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