Can NASA Successfully Produce Oxygen on Mars?

It’s a remarkable moment for all of us- On Tuesday, when the space agency announced that a device on the rover had successfully produced oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, tremendously.

Ever since researches on Mars have begun, the question regarding the availability of oxygen has been put up. The absence of breathable oxygen has limited the possibility of life forms on Mars.

But NASA’s recent Perseverance mission has earned a reputation of debunking various questions. Landing on the surface of Mars this February, the mission has answered various questions and achieved some remarkable feats.

Can NASA successfully produce oxygen on Mars?
Image Source- NASA

One such feat was achieved on Tuesday when the space agency announced that a device on the rover had successfully produced oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. This was the first time it had been and has been remarked as a great feat since it could be the turning point scientists were waiting for.

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The achievement has created joy among the space community signalling that in future endeavours on Mars, astronauts could use the technique to produce breathable oxygen.

How Was Oxygen Produced on Mars?

The biggest question to answer was how to prepare breathable oxygen on the Martian surface. The atmosphere of Mars has approximately 96% carbon dioxide and only 0.13% oxygen. So, the biggest possible way to produce oxygen was to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. This is what the MOXIE did on Mars.

Can NASA successfully produce oxygen on Mars?
Image Credit- NASA

MOXIE is the abbreviation for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. In its first trial experiment, it successfully produced 5 grams of oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The amount was enough for 5 minutes of breathing for an astronaut. MOXIE did it in the same way green plants do it on Earth – by taking in carbon dioxide and giving out oxygen.

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The process of conversion worked on the principle of separating molecules of oxygen from carbon dioxide. This was done with the help of high temperatures of nearly 800 degrees Celsius. In the process, carbon dioxide splits up into oxygen and carbon monoxide which was released into the atmosphere.

More About MOXIE

MOXIE has the capability to produce 10 grams of oxygen per hour and weighs about 17 kg on Earth, having a size of a car battery. It is just a technology demonstrator and is kept inside the Perseverance rover for conducting experiments.

It is just a part of the $2 billion rovers and is quite small for the humongous task it has done. The device has a casing that consists of a compressor, filter and a ceramic stack looking after the process of conversion.

The MOXIE had to be designed in such a way that it had high tech insulation to protect other equipment of the rover. Adding to the problem was the temperature conditions of the planet. Running the device in all sorts of environments was quite a huge task for the men at work.

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Why is the production of oxygen necessary on Mars?

We need not think about oxygen on Earth since there is an abundance of it on the planet. But on a planet like Mars with a scarcity of oxygen, getting breathable oxygen is a huge challenge.

For the success of various missions on Mars, oxygen is one of the basic necessities. Not just do astronauts require oxygen but also rockets require it for the combustion of fuel to come to Earth.

According to the press release by NASA, a mission of four astronauts to take off from Mars would require 25 metric tons of oxygen and 7 tons of rocket fuel. In comparison to this, breathing and working on Mars would require around one metric ton of oxygen.

It is clear from these stats that it isn’t a profitable bet to carry 25 metric tons for the return journey. Keep in mind that this weight of oxygen is nearly the weight of an entire space shuttle. A much better way would be to produce oxygen on Mars. This is what MOXIE did in its endeavour.

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What Are The Future Plans of NASA?                                                  

NASA after this successful experiment plans to take it to the next level. The agency plans to construct a larger device performing the same task as MOXIE did. It is planning to prepare a one-ton convertor.

Officials at NASA believe it to be the stuff of science fiction. They believe that this is the thing that will allow us to live off the land. According to them, the results are promising and could be crucial in future endeavours on Mars.


The Perseverance rover launched by NASA has been doing some great things in the recent past and hasn’t failed to surprise us even now.

The MOXIE device in the rover has successfully created oxygen from carbon dioxide. The conversion was done through the process of electrolysis at a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius.

This unique feat has created a feeling of joy among the science and space community. It is to be seen that what NASA would do next.

How long would the agency take to create a larger oxygen converter? Only the future would answer those questions, but for the time being the achievement by MOXIE is huge!

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