Scientists say they have come up with potential way to make oxygen on Mars

Transporting sufficient oxygen and gasoline on a spacecraft to maintain the mission for wherever close to that size of time, nonetheless, is not at present viable.

The way NASA plans to handle this downside is by deploying MOXIE, or the Mars Oxygen in Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. This system is within the testing section on the Mars Perseverance rover, which launched in July. The equipment will convert the carbon dioxide that makes up 96% of the fuel within the pink planet’s’ ambiance into oxygen.

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have now mentioned they could have come up with one other method that would complement MOXIE.

The MOXIE system primarily produces oxygen like a tree — pulling within the Martian air with a pump and utilizing an electrochemical course of to separate two oxygen atoms from every molecule of carbon dioxide, or CO2.

The experimental method proposed by Vijay Ramani and his colleagues makes use of a very totally different useful resource — salty water in lakes beneath the Martian floor.

The research by Ramani, a distinguished professor at Washington University’s division of power, environmental and chemical engineering, and his colleagues printed final week within the journal PNAS.

Martian lakes?

Most of the water recognized to exist on Mars is ice — each on the poles and the planet’s midlatitudes. However, scientists detected two years in the past what regarded like a salty lake below the floor of Mars’ southern ice cap. And more recent research has discovered extra proof of the lake and revealed various smaller salty ponds close by.
Mars might have salty ponds next to its underground lake, raising the possibility of Martian life

“The presence of the brine is fortuitous because it lowers freezing point of the water. You take the salty, brackish water and electrolyze that. Our process takes the water and splits it into hydrogen and oxygen,” Ramani mentioned.

The technique proposed within the new paper, nonetheless, assumes that these brines are available on Mars, mentioned Michael Hecht, NASA’s principal investigator for MOXIE and affiliate director for analysis administration on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Haystack Observatory.

“There hasn’t been any substantive evidence of bulk brine deposits, and while there are likely some in frozen form I absolutely don’t expect to find them as liquids,” mentioned Hecht by way of e mail. “What the authors are overlooking is that while the melting point might be – 70C, the frostpoint on Mars is also around -70C, so if these liquid brines did exist they would eventually just evaporate (more accurately, sublimate) away.”

Hecht mentioned, in the future, electrolysis of water can be necessary for gasoline manufacturing on Mars however not essentially within the way outlined within the paper.

“Regular ice … is plentiful on Mars and not hard to find. There also isn’t any reason not to melt the ice to get water, which can then be co-electrolyzed with CO2 to ultimately produce both oxygen and methane for fuel,” he mentioned by way of e mail.

Astronauts on a Mars mission will need to be 'conscientious' to work well together

Ramani described their analysis undertaking as an “initial foray” — his crew had specialised in seawater electrolysis.

“We came across these reports about saltwater deposits on Mars and we said why not,” he mentioned.

“We aren’t funded by NASA or any space-related program, but our hope is that if we get sufficient traction with this work, then in future we hope to propose this as a complement to MOXIE and other systems.”

“Our hope is in the next 10, 15 years we can advance our system to make it competitive.”

Testing MOXIE

The MOXIE crew at NASA will research how the little, toaster-size model operates on the Perseverance rover and apply classes discovered for growing a bigger and extra highly effective system for a crewed mission.

The experiment will assist researchers find out how various environmental components, together with mud storms, winds and sand, and the temperature of the carbon dioxide, may have an effect on MOXIE. The scientists additionally want to understand how radiation may impression its software program.

A full-scale MOXIE system on Mars could be a bit bigger than a family range and weigh round 2,200 kilos (1,000 kilograms)– virtually as a lot as Perseverance itself. Work is ongoing to develop a prototype for one within the close to future, NASA has said.

Hecht mentioned that NASA’s focus would stay on extracting oxygen from Mars’ ambiance. While the ice may very well be helpful sooner or later, he mentioned, it must be considered a mineral that has to be prospected, extracted and refined earlier than it may be used. What’s extra, the ice on Mars is discovered predominantly at excessive latitudes, which is not the place NASA intends to land people, at the very least at first, he added.

“Extracting oxygen from the air is easy by comparison because it’s everywhere, you don’t have to go dig anything up, and that’s why we’re doing it first.”

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