On Mars, NASA has successfully synthesized oxygen

After its first drone flight to another planet, the Perseverance Robot continues its first technological steps. NASA has just succeeded in producing 6 grams of pure oxygen from the red planet’s atmosphere, which is mainly composed of carbon dioxide.

View from the NASA rover © AFP / NASA

It is a new achievement. After leaving its search for traces of past life on Mars for a day, the Perseverance Robot succeeded in producing a small amount of pure oxygen thanks to MOXIE.

It is located in the belly of the robot, The size of a car battery, Moxie is a gold box intended to convert the carbon dioxide present in Mars’ atmosphere (made up of 96% of this gas) into carbon dioxide (O2) and carbon monoxide (CO). Schematically, the machine will then smell Mars air. “It is pressurized between 500 mbar and 1 bar before being cycled in electrochemical cells on the basis of electrolysis“Pierre-Yves Messelin, Researcher at INRAP, National Research Institute for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, explains.”The oxygen atoms are removed from carbon dioxide at 800 degrees, before being regrouped to produce ultra-pure oxygen.“Sylvester Morris continues, The father of the SuperCam tool on board Android. Moxie I managed to produce 6 grams of O2 in one hour. “It’s not much, but it’s a good start.

If this chemical reaction is mastered on Earth, it becomes more sensitive at the site on Mars because in the event of an error in dose, and energy in particular, the chemical reaction can produce carbon soot capable of clogging the electrodes of the instrument.

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Produce what you breathe and what to take off

NASA calculated that 6 grams were produced that would allow the astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes. Its daily requirement is estimated at 700 grams of oxygen per day: this gives an idea of ​​the size of the installation that would have to be built for a multi-crew crew!

However, “Another challenge to Mars exploration is the use of on-site resources. Not only does the astronauts breathe: it also provides additional fuel for the rocketAccording to NASA, to re-launch a small crew from Mars on a rocket, 25 to 35 tons of liquid oxygen would be needed. It would act as an oxidizing agent, if the fuel was really there. Here again, we’re not there, But this successful new technical show undoubtedly represents an additional step towards the conquest of Mars, be it human or robot.

Because re-launching a missile from Mars is not just a fantasy. This is one of the specific goals of returning samples to Earth, expected from 2026. Once the gravel that Mars has collected, the missile will have to take off again to meet in orbit before reaching the destination. Finish: American desert.

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