successful operation for Endurance!

18 months ago ENDURANCE surveying 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 Resource Utilization Experiment In-Situ. The Moxie instrument certainly didn’t go unnoticed of new discoveries made by NASA’s Mars rover. Its role however is crucial for the preparation of a potential manned mission to the Red Planet. Because if the loss of free oxygenatmosphere of Mars in no way interferes with the functioning of Patience, this is not the case in the future astronautswhich would require an adequate supply of oxygen to survive on the surface of the planet for several months.

Oxygen, a key element in preparing 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 is expensive in terms of space and fuel, MIT scientists (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) therefore considered the second option. This is how Moxie is mixed with Endurance.

When it landed, the small instrument began to work and produce oxygen from it the CO-rich Martian atmosphere2. The results are quickly promising (see our previous article, below). However, it remains to test the operation of the system over time, but also in highly variable atmospheric conditions. The Martian atmosphere is subject to significant changes, especially in temperature and density, especially between day and night but also between different times. During the year, the air density can vary by a factor of 2 and the temperature by 100°C.

Best operation of all times

A new study, published in Advances in Science, counting this 18 months of operation. And the operation was clearly a success for Moxie. In each test, the instrument met its goal of producing six grams of pure oxygen per hour, or the equivalent of the amount that a small tree does on Earth.

However it is not clear that Moxie was able to support the stress It heats up the planet and works well for everyone times.

The goal now is to push the production of oxygen to the maximum during the Martian spring, but also to test the operation of the device indawn and at dusk, two times during the day when the temperature changes quickly and is noticeable.

Greater production ahead of future manned missions

If the latest tests prove conclusive, this system can be considered, on a larger scale and continuously in operation, to produce oxygen before the arrival of a manned mission. The goal is to produce the same number of several hundred trees. It will not only provide for the needs of the astronauts, but also fill the tanks in anticipation of their return from Earth.

This experiment is very unusual because it is the first use in the place of Martian resources. A first that could pave the way for using other planetary materials to support life for astronauts on the surface March.

Endurance: Oxygen has been created on another planet for the first time!

For Endurance, the end rover on in pose of Mars since last February, successes follow one another. NASA has just announced a new first: an instrument on board has recently produced oxygen using elements available on site.

Article on Nathalie Mayer published on April 27, 2021

If men want one day conquer the planet mars, they must learn to produce their oxygen on the spot. By using elements from around this world. NASA engineers have it in mind Mars Oxygen Resource Utilization Experiment In-Situ. A demonstrators the size of a car battery affectionately nicknamed Moxie, was brought to the Red Planet by the Perseverance rover.

And this Tuesday, April 20, it was tested for the very first time. With success. Moxie converts the oxygen (O) portion of the thin layer intoAtmosphere of Marsan atmosphere full of carbon dioxide (CO2). It produces 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 continue our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars.”said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate, in a speaking. “Oxygen isn’t just what we breathe in. It’s our thrusters rockets depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on Mars’ oxygen production 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 takes a ton of Moxie. While the mounted on the right front of Endurance rover weight less than 20 kg. But it should be noted that during the whole year spent on Mars, a human colonist will consume only one ton of oxygen.

Oxygen production cycles are still to come

To avoid bringing too much oxygen from Earth to Mars, engineers are therefore thinking of recovering — with emissions on carbon monoxide (CO) — the atoms oxygen present in CO2 which accounts for 96% of Mars’ weak atmosphere. The Moxie demonstrator was originally intended to show the possibility of making such an instrument travel on red planet. Then continue the experimental phase of oxygen extraction for the next two years.

Note that the process of divorce Atoms occur at a temperature of about 800°C. So Moxie is designed accordingly. From the parts of electrum of nickel that heats and cools the gas who crossed them, air gel which helps to stay heat and a thin layer of gold that prevents it from shining through and thus damaging other parts of the Endurance.

Now that the first test has been successfully completed, the production cycles will continue as follows. A first phase will be used to verify and identify the operation of the instrument. The second phase will operate the instrument under different atmospheric conditions, such as different hours of the day and different seasons. In the third phase, engineers count “push the limits” by testing new operating modes, for example.

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