Planting trees on Mars for oxygen to breathe or growing potatoes like the one shown in sci-fi flick The Martian sci-fi film is probably too complex to become a reality. However, a report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website informs that a device onboard NASA’s Perseverance rover has been successful in producing oxygen equivalent to a tree in all seasons of Mars.
In a study published in the journal ‘Science Advances’ states that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-led Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which was included in NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, has undergone seven experimental runs in different environmental conditions on Mars. Two months after the touchdown of Perseverance rover on the Martian surface, MOXIE has achieved the production target of six grams of oxygen per hour in each run.
Why is this experiment ground-breaking?
Jeffrey Hoffman, MOXIE deputy principal investigator, told MIT news that this is a historic success because of it being the first trial of using material accessible on other planets, and converting them chemically into things useful for a human mission.
The “in-situ resource utilization” method has produced oxygen needed to breathe life using carbon dioxide on Mars.
What are the constraints in sending humans to other planets?
The two major constraints for interplanetary mission are:
Non availability of oxygen in the environment of other planets forces us to carry oxygen from Earth and thus increases the payload.
Oxygen can also fuel the rocket. It will help in significantly reducing the quantity of fuel required to be carried along from Earth.
How will it help in the prospects of a human mission?
The steady output of pure oxygen from this device has made researchers think of a scaled-up version which could be sent to Mars before sending humans.
The scaled-up version can be so sufficient in producing oxygen equivalent to several hundred trees.
It will sustain the oxygen requirement of humans and will also act as fuel for the return mission.
Now the scientists are working on testing the device at the time of dawn and dusk, when there is rapid change in the temperature, before settling with the full success of the experiment.