Making Air on Mars

NASA/JPL-CALTECH

RIDING THE ROVER: NASA’s Perseverance rover carried a small device that could be of huge importance for future missions to the Red Planet.

This past February, a small gold box landed on Mars aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. The box contained the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE). It’s designed to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen (O2).

MOXIE uses heat and electricity to separate molecules of oxygen from the carbon dioxide gas that makes up 95 percent of Mars’s atmosphere. During the device’s first test, it produced 5.6 grams (0.2 ounces) of oxygen in less than an hour—enough for an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes.

Astronauts would need a lot more oxygen to survive on Mars, plus oxygen to fuel the rocket for the voyage home, says Michael Hecht, MOXIE’s lead designer. Someday, a bigger version of MOXIE may help humans survive on the Red Planet.

Back to top
Skills Sheets (2)
Skills Sheets (2)