NASA has logged another extraterrestrial first on its latest mission to Mars, this time by converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the U.S. space agency said on Wednesday.
The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, literally out of thin air on Mars, was achieved on Tuesday by an experimental device aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red planet on February 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.
In its first activation, the toaster-sized instrument dubbed MOXIE, short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment, produced about 5 grams of oxygen, equivalent to roughly 10 minutes’ worth of breathing for an astronaut, NASA said. Although the initial output was modest, the feat marked the first experimental extraction of a natural resources from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans.
“MOXIE isn’t just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world,” Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. She called it the first technology of its kind to help future missions “live off the land” of another planet.