While the ultimate goal of Perseverance is to search for signs of ancient life on Mars, that hasn’t stopped the rover from doing other scientific work. On April 20, Perseverance successfully extracted carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere and converted it into oxygen, NASA said on Wednesday.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab equipped the rover with an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment or MOXIE for short.
The toaster-sized tool allowed Perseverance to separate oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules by heating the gas to around 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit and creating carbon monoxide as a byproduct.
“This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), in a statement. “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars.”
First, we asked NASA Ingenuity’s Mars helicopter to perform the first controlled flight on the surface of another planet – and now this. Hats off to NASA’s tremendous efforts to bring Mars closer to us than ever before.