Future Mars visitors will not only need oxygen to breathe, but also to act as propellant for rockets. Because oxygen takes up precious weight on spacecraft, mission planners are interested in the idea of producing oxygen back there on Mars using Martian raw materials.
Two of those scientists have proposed a method they believe could produce enough oxygen to propel a six-person rover into Mars orbit.
In 2022, the Perseverance spacecraft will launch Moxy The instrument used electrolysis to convert carbon dioxide in the Martian air into a droplet of oxygen. This was the first time that humans had chemically transformed the resources of another world. So MOXY was certainly an interesting start, but any manned mission to Mars would need a lot more than the few grams of oxygen per hour that this device was capable of producing.
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The team’s newly proposed method is also based on electrolysis like MOXIE, but has the potential to yield hundreds of times more oxygen content. If successful, scientists say, it would generate an estimated 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of oxygen per hour. Here’s how the mechanism is expected to work.
Carbon dioxide, molecules made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms, from the Martian atmosphere, will be compressed and heated first. This warm gas then enters what is known as electrolysis cells, and inside those cells, electricity will pass through hot carbon dioxide molecules, thus splitting their oxygen atoms.
This oxygen content then flows off and cools, turning into a liquid. The oxygen heat then returns to heating a new gas that enters the electrolysis cells.
The authors believe that if a hypothetical Mars crew operated this machine for the expected typical mission duration of 14 months, or 420 sols, the astronauts would produce about 30 metric tons of oxygen, enough to allow them to escape from the surface of Mars. gravity.
The authors published their idea June 9 in the journal Space: Science and Technology.
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