Sophisticated technology designed to produce oxygen has been fitted to the 2020 Mars rover in the hopes of advancing the prospect of human exploration to the terrestrial planet.
NASA’s plans to have a self-sufficient human outpost on Mars would benefit scientifically and financially from the ability to harvest and retain oxygen supplies, making the experimental device a vital component to the next mission.
MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment) will attempt to yield oxygen by processing CO2 from the Martian atmosphere, which is “essentially a fuel cell run in reverse,” according to the instrument’s principal investigator, MIT’s Michael Hecht.
While astronauts would breathe some of the oxygen produced on the Red Planet, most of the gas would be stored for use as an oxidizer to help burn rocket fuel and launch Earth-bound spacecraft.
NASA says future experiments may also be able to harness the ability to generate rocket fuel from martian materials.
The 2020 Mars rover’s body will house seven scientific instruments valued at $US130 million including a SuperCam which will break down the chemical composition of rocks, a high-tech weather station called MEDA and a MastCam Z which will have the focal ability to zoom in on interesting targets.
The space agency expects the entire 2020 Mars rover mission to cost approximately $US1.9 billion.
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