General, Research, Technology

How will astronauts get oxygen on Mars?

Mars is considered one of the best planets forresettlement of people, but with all this, it has many disadvantages. For example, its atmosphere is much thinner than Earth's and is 95% unbreathable carbon dioxide. Before sending people to a distant planet, scientists need to figure out a way to get vital oxygen. At the end of July 2020, the NASA aerospace agency sent the Perseverance spacecraft to Mars, which is equipped with a device for converting carbon dioxide into oxygen. Researchers are not yet sure if he will be able to cope with his task, but the answer will be known as early as 2021. But how exactly does this device work?

Humanity is about to conquer a planet where there is very little oxygen

Perseverance rover device

Mars Perseverance rover should reach Mars 18February 2021. At the moment, he is inside the capsule next to the Ingenuity helicopter. The main purpose of the rover is to look for signs of existing or extinct life on the Red Planet. A helicopter is needed only in order to understand whether such devices can fly in Martian conditions. The Perseverance apparatus is 90% composed of parts of the Curiosity rover. It consists of 7 different instruments, 23 cameras and is equipped with several microphones, which I already talked about in this article.

Helicopter Ingenuity

More specifically, the Perseverance payload consists of the following tools:

  • Mastcam-Z - a system of two chambers, which is also capable of determining the mineralogical composition of the Martian soil;
  • SuperCam - a tool for chemical analysis of soil, which is able to determine the presence of organic compounds in rocks from a distance;
  • PIXL - X-rays are needed to search for lithium, beryllium, gallium and other rare elements on Mars;
  • SHERLOC - a device for taking small-scale images, which are also important in studying the composition of the Martian soil;
  • MEDA - a set of sensors for measuring air temperature, wind speed and direction, relative humidity and other features of the environment;
  • RIMFAX - a tool for studying the bowels of the Red Planet;
  • MOXIE - an experimental tool for converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.

You can see the location of each tool in the image below. Different specialists from the NASA team are responsible for the operation of each part of the apparatus.

Perseverance rover design

See also: Can toxic substances interfere with the existence of life on Mars?

How to get oxygen on Mars?

Within the framework of this article, we are most interested in MOXIE tool... According to the scientific publication New Atlas, according toit is no bigger than a home toaster. In short, the first thing it will do is to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere of Mars using an air pump. Then, by acting on it with electricity, it will divide it into its component parts. The researchers expect this separation to result in carbon monoxide and oxygen, which is vital to humanity. The process takes place at a temperature of about 800 degrees Celsius, so the device is made of fire-resistant materials. As part of the Perseverance mission, scientists want to find out how quickly and how much oxygen such a device can produce.

Perseverance on the surface of Mars as presented by an artist

According to systems engineer MOXIE AsadAbubaker (Asad Aboobaker), the apparatus should produce up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour. This should be enough to keep a small dog alive. To test the effectiveness of the device, the NASA team plans to activate it at least 10 times over two years. It is important to turn it on at different intervals, because Mars also has seasons and, depending on them, the performance of the device may change.

Like on Earth, Mars has four seasons.

If NASA's invention proves effective,in the future, a full-size version weighing about a ton will be created. With the help of it, future colonists of Mars will be able to saturate their spacesuits with oxygen. Also, oxygen on Mars is needed so that people can produce rocket fuel. If they succeed, it will be possible to build a spaceport on the Red Planet and the rockets will be launched directly from there.

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If you're wondering what life will look like onMars, I recommend reading an article about what people will use to build houses on Mars. The fact is that there are practically no materials suitable for the construction of structures in a pure form on a distant planet. But scientists have already figured out how to acquire Martian housing. Enjoy reading!