MIT’s lunchbox-sized machine can produce oxygen on Mars

By | 07/09/2022

An experiment from NASA has taken a minor pace towards making Mars habitable for humans.

NASA’s musical instrument, the Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, has been successful in generating breathable oxygen on Mars using resource establish on the Ruby Planet — a offset for the experiment.

The lunch box-sized instrument has produced oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian temper seven times since landing on Mars in Feb 2021.

And then what’s new well-nigh this sit-in?

MOXIE’s oxygen product on Mars represents the outset sit-in of “in-situ resources utilisation”.

This is the practise of harvesting and using a planet’due south materials to make resources that would otherwise accept to be transported from Globe.

Massachusetts Constitute of Technology (MIT) professor of aeronautics and astronautics and principal investigator for MOXIE, Jeffery Hoffman, said this is the first time MOXIE has used resources from the planet itself.

“This is the first demonstration of actually using resources on the surface of another planetary torso, and transforming them chemically into something that would be useful for a homo mission,” he said in a statement.

“It’s historic in that sense.”

A GIF of engineers lowering the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment into the belly of NASA's Perseverance rover

Engineers lowering MOXIE into the abdomen of NASA’s Perseverance rover.(

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory


In each of its seven runs, MOXIE reached its goal of producing 6g of oxygen per 60 minutes — similar to the rate of a pocket-size tree on Earth, according to findings published in a new paper in the journal Science Advances.

MIT began developing Moxie in 2014.

The experiment rode to Mars along with NASA’southward Perseverance rover in 2020, landing on Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Researchers suggest a scaled-upwardly version of MOXIE could be sent to Mars to continuously produce oxygen at the rate of several hundred trees, ahead of humans going to the planet.

How does it piece of work? What would a scaled-upwardly version expect like?

Think of MOXIE as a similar procedure to producing oxygen and hydrogen from h2o in a fuel prison cell.

The instrument works past sucking in Martian air, filtering it, and so using electrolysis to split up carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide.

Afterward this, it purifies and combines the singular oxygen atoms to produce O2 — breathable oxygen.

Moxie and then releases the oxygen and carbon monoxide dorsum into the Martian atmosphere.

Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory holding the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment instrument

Researchers advise a scaled-up version of MOXIE could be used to produce oxygen on Mars at the rate of several hundred trees.(

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory


So far, MOXIE has shown that information technology tin can make oxygen at almost whatever time of the Martian twenty-four hour period and year.

Michael Hecht, main investigator of the MOXIE mission at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, said: “The only thing we take non demonstrated is running at dawn or dusk, when the temperature is changing substantially.

“We practise have an ace upwardly our sleeve that will permit united states do that, and once we exam that in the lab, nosotros can reach that last milestone to show nosotros can really run any time,” he said.

Researchers say a scaled-upwardly version of MOXIE on a futurity Mars mission would pump that oxygen into some sort of storage tank for time to come apply.

This means providing breathable O2 for astronauts, or liquid oxygen for the manufacture of rocket fuels.

Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment Instrument shines after being installed inside the Perseverance rover. 

Have a peek inside the inner workings of the gold-plated MOXIE.(

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory


As MOXIE continues to churn out oxygen on Mars, engineers programme to push its capacity by increasing its production, particularly in the Martian spring, when atmospheric density and carbon dioxide levels are high.

“To support a man mission to Mars, we have to bring a lot of stuff from Earth, like computers, spacesuits, and habitats,” Mr Hoffman said.

“Simply dumb old oxygen? If you tin can make it there, get for it — you’re way alee of the game.”