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Historic: NASA Rover Produces Oxygen On Surface Of Mars

PASADENA (CBSLA) – NASA's Perseverance rover has made history yet again, extracting oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars, the first time oxygen has ever been artificially produced on another planet.

Historic: NASA Rover Extracts Oxygen From Surface Of Mars
UNDATED --Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA reported Wednesday that the Perseverance was able to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen using a small instrument called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment).

The conversion, which took place Tuesday, created only 5 grams of oxygen, which according to NASA, would provide about 10 minutes of oxygen for an astronaut. MOXIE, which is the size of a toaster, is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

NASA researchers noted that if astronauts are ever sent to the Red Planet, it will be essential for them to be able to produce oxygen on Mars because rocket propellant would require oxygen for a return trip home to earth.

Getting a rocket off the surface of Mars would require 55,000 pounds of oxygen and 15,000 pounds of rocket fuel, NASA said.

"This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "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. Oxygen isn't just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home."

The SUV-sized Perseverance, which was built and operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, is on a mission to both search for signs of ancient microbial life, study the planet's geology and climate history, and collect rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth.

It landed on the surface of Mars in mid-February after a seven-month journey that began in July of 2020.

On Monday morning, the Perseverance also made another kind of history when its Ingenuity helicopter lifted off the surface of Mars, becoming the first aircraft to take flight on another planet.

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