NASA\’s car-sized rover has successfully managed to turn the Martian atmosphere into breathable oxygen.
The space agency has been celebrating a lot of scientific firsts recently such as the maiden flight of the Ingenuity helicopter which last week marked the first powered, controlled flight on another world.
Not to be outdone, the Perseverance rover has now achieved its own first for science by converting some of the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen – something that had never done before on another planet.
To accomplish this, it used an on-board instrument known as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – or MOXIE – a car battery-sized device described as a \’mechanical tree\’.
To make oxygen, the device works by splitting carbon dioxide molecules which are comprised of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms.
Such an achievement is important because if it is possible to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, future settlers will be able to produce their own breathable air.
It will also be possible to create fuel on Mars as well, reducing the need to ferry it from Earth.
“This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said NASA\’s Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the agency\’s space technology mission directorate.