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[EN VIDÉO] The incredible landing of Perseverance on Mars Nasa’s Perseverance Mars 2020 mission captured fascinating images of its rover landing in the Martian crater Jezero on February 18, 2021. © Nasa / JPL-Caltech
It’s been 18 months since Perseverance surveys the Martian soil, with a whole series of instruments and experimental equipment on board. Among other things, a small box named Moxie for Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. The Moxie instrument has certainly gone unnoticed by to new discoveries made by NASA’s Mars rover. Its role is however crucial for the preparation of a potential manned mission on the Red Planet. Because if the absence ofoxygen free in theatmosphere of Mars in no way interferes with the functioning of Perseverance, this is not the case for future astronautswhich will need a substantial reserve of oxygen to live on the surface of the planet for several months.
Oxygen, an essential element in the preparation of future manned missions
With this in mind, two options are possible: import oxygen from Earth, or produce this element directly on Mars. The first solution being costly in terms of space and fuel, the scientists at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) therefore considered the second option. This is how Moxie was integrated into Perseverance.
As soon as it landed, the little instrument started to work and produce oxygen from the CO-rich Martian atmosphere2. The results were quickly very promising (see our previous article, below). However, it remained to test the operation of the system over time, but also in highly variable atmospheric conditions. The Martian atmosphere is indeed subject to significant variations, in particular of temperature and density, especially between day and night but also between the different seasons. During the year, the density of theair can thus vary by a factor of 2 and the temperature by 100°C.
Optimum operation in all seasons
A new study, published in Scientists progresstherefore takes stock of these 18 months of operation. And it is clear that the operation is rather successful for Moxie. In each test, the instrument achieved its goal of producing six grams of pure oxygen per hour, or the equivalent of the amount produced by a small tree on Earth.
It was however not obvious that Moxie manages to support the stress heat imposed on it by the planet and operates optimally in all seasons.
The objective is now to push the production of oxygen to its maximum during the Martian spring, but also to test the operation of the device atdawn and at dusktwo times of the day when the temperature changes quickly and noticeably.
Larger-scale production ahead of a future manned mission
If the latest tests prove conclusive, this system could be considered, on a much larger scale and operating continuously, to produce oxygen ahead of the arrival of a manned mission. The goal would be to produce the same amount as several hundred trees would. This would not only provide for the needs of the astronauts, but also fill tanks in anticipation of their return from Earth.
This experiment is especially remarkable because it is the first use on the site of Martian resources. A first that could pave the way for the use of other materials on the planet to support the life of astronauts on the surface of March.
Perseverance: Oxygen has been produced on another planet for the first time!
For Perseverance, the last vagabond from NASA landed on Mars since last February, the successes follow one another. NASA has just announced a new first: an instrument on board has just produced oxygen using the elements available on site.
Article of Nathalie Mayer published on April 27, 2021
If men want one day conquer the planet marsthey will have to learn to produce their oxygen on the spot. By using elements from the environment of this world. It is with this in mind that NASA engineers have imagined Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. And demonstrator the size of a car battery affectionately nicknamed Moxie, taken to the Red Planet by the Perseverance rover.
And this Tuesday, April 20, it was tested for the very first time. With success. Moxie has converted an oxygen (O) part of the thin layer toMars atmospherean atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide (CO2). It produced about five grams — just enough to allow an astronaut to breathe for 10 minutes.
“ Moxie still has work to do, but the results of this technology demonstration hold great promise as we move towards our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars.”said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate, in a communicated. “Oxygen is not just what we breathe. The thrusters of our rockets depend on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on oxygen production on Mars to get home. »
Before we continue, let’s look at some numbers. NASA says a rocket would need 25 tons of oxygen to take off from the Martian surface and seven tons of fuel to return to Earth. To produce that much oxygen, it would take a one-ton Moxie. While the one attached to the right front of the Perseverance rover weighs less than 20 kg. But it should be noted that during an entire year spent on Mars, a human colonist would consume only one ton of oxygen.
Another great first: converting CO2 into oxygen on Mars. Working out of the ground with what is already there, my MOXIE instrument has shown that it is possible!
Future explorers will need to generate oxygen for rocket fuel and to breathe on the Red Planet. https://t.co/9sjZT9KeOR
— NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover (@NASAPersevere) April 21, 2021
Oxygen production cycles yet to come
To avoid having to transport so much oxygen from Earth to Mars, the engineers therefore imagined recovering — with emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) – the atoms oxygen available in CO2 which accounts for 96% of the tenuous atmosphere of Mars. The Moxie demonstrator was initially intended to show the possibility of making such an instrument travel to the red planet. Then move on to the experimental oxygen extraction phase for the next two years.
Note that the process of separation atoms occurs at temperatures of about 800°C. The Moxie was therefore designed accordingly. From parts in alloy of nickel which heat and cool the gas who cross them, airgel which helps retain heat and a thin layer of gold that prevents it from radiating outward and thus damaging other parts of Perseverance.
Now that the first test has been successfully completed, the production cycles will proceed as follows. A first phase will be used to verify and characterize the functioning of the instrument. A second phase will operate the instrument under varying atmospheric conditions, such as different times of day and different seasons. In a third phase, the engineers count ” push the limits “ by trying new operating modes, for example.
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