NASA’s MOXIE is Successful in Making Oxygen on Mars

11 September 23

At the current level of human technology Mars is the sole candidate for colonization. A case could be made for the colonization of the Moon or perhaps even Venus but at the moment the red planet is the one in our sights.

What is needed to make Mars habitable? Mars needs to be terraformed. That would include raising the surface temperature and building up a habitable atmosphere, rich in oxygen and protective of solar radiation.

What steps are being taken? For the last 3 years NASA has been performing an oxygen-making experiment on the surface of Mars. In 2021, when NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars a little golden box named MOXIE attached to the rover touched down too.

That little box is now responsible for one of the greatest achievements in space exploration history. MOXIE, which stands for “Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment” has beat initial estimates and produced the total of 122 grams of oxygen, that is an amount a small dog breathes in 10 hours. 

At its best MOXIE produced 12 grams of oxygen every hour. What is even more impressive is that the oxygen made was at least 98% pure – this is good news for future efforts to scale-up oxygen production efforts on Mars.

In a nutshell, MOXIE takes the carbon dioxide molecules from Mars’ thin atmosphere and separates it into oxygen and carbon. The hard part of the oxygen-making process is the immense heat of around 800 degrees Celsius that is required. This means that MOXIE needs to be made of heat resistant materials like nickel alloy, lightweight aerogel, and gold.

Overall, the experiment is considered to be very successful and it has proved the possibility of scaling the oxygen-making efforts on Mars in the future.

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