In a 1st, NASA's Perseverance rover makes breathable oxygen on Mars

While on the Red Planet, NASA's Perseverance rover produced 4.3 ounces of breathing oxygen, which is sufficient to keep an adult person alive for three hours.

NASA's Perseverance rover has created enough oxygen on Mars in a first-of-its-kind experiment to sustain an astronaut for three hours.

Using its Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) gadget, which created the element by converting carbon dioxide in periodic bouts over a two-year period, the rover—which made its initial landing on Mars in February 2021—produced the element.

NASA reports that the microwave-sized instrument has produced 4.3 ounces (122 grams) of oxygen since it arrived on the Red Planet. This offers scientists optimism that human life may one day be sustained on the hostile planet since it is equal to what a tiny dog breaths in ten hours.

In a statement, Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations at NASA Headquarters in Washington, director of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), said, "We're proud to have supported a breakthrough technology like MOXIE that could turn local resources into useful products for future exploration missions." The demonstration of this technique under practical circumstances has brought us one step closer to a day when astronauts will be able to "live off the land" on the Red Planet.

According to NASA, carbon dioxide is prevalent on Mars and accounts for 95% of its thin atmosphere. The MOXIE gadget extracted oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide through a series of 16 tests involving the zapping of tiny volumes of CO2; the oxygen atoms were then purified and securely contained within a capsule. The residue was then released as carbon monoxide.

Scientists predict that oxygen extraction equipment will be used to produce rocket fuel in addition to being essential for future colonists to breathe.

NASA's deputy administrator Pamela Melroy stated in a statement that MOXIE's remarkable performance "shows that it is feasible to extract oxygen from Mars' atmosphere—oxygen that could help supply breathable air or rocket propellant to future astronauts." "To build a long-term lunar presence, create a robust lunar economy, and enable an initial human exploration campaign to Mars, we must develop technologies that allow us to use resources on both the Moon and Mars."

A successful Mars colony is still hampered by several serious health issues, even in spite of this minor but important advancement. First of all, without a space suit, a person would freeze to death on Mars due to its typical temperature of about minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62 degrees Celsius), and the planet's low air pressure would cause their blood to boil. This does not account for the severe losses in bone density brought on by the trip there, nor the barrage of radiation that causes cancer due to the absence of a protective ozone layer.

The closest glimpse of the Red Planet that mankind has until these issues are resolved comes from rovers like Perseverance. As a vital component of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars 2020 project, the robot is gathering hundreds of rock samples to be eventually returned to Earth with the Curiosity rover in order to look for evidence of prehistoric life on the planet's surface. The Ingenuity helicopter, which has flown over the Martian surface 57 times so far, travels with the rover.