New record for NASA’s Mars2020 mission on the red planet. Three days after the first flight of the Ingenuity mini-helicopter, confirmation of the production of oxygen from the “Moxie” system on board the Perseverance rover arrived yesterday. Five grams produced, enough for a human to breathe about ten minutes. On the other hand, it was a test, carried out through a system the size of a toaster. But what could be done with a much larger system
The Moxie test, acronym for “Mars oxygen in-situ resource utilization experiment”, represents “a fundamental first step to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars”, he said. Jim Reuter, number one of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (Stmd) who leads the project. “Moxie – she added – she still has a lot of work to do, but the results of this technological demonstration are full of promise for the goal of one day seeing humans on Mars”. Oxygen, Reuter remarked, will not only be used by astronauts to survive: “The propellant for rockets depends on oxygen and future explorers will depend on the production of propellant on Mars for the journey home”.
In order for a vector to take four astronauts off the surface of Mars, it is estimated that 7 metric tons of fuel and 25 metric tons of oxygen are required. By comparison, one year of life for the same four astronauts on the Red Planet would require about 4 metric tons of precious oxygen. Transporting everything from Earth to Mars could be particularly complex, which is why Moxie is testing production capacity in situ. A one-ton system could produce about 25 metric tons of oxygen. On the other hand, the raw material available is abundant. 96% of the atmosphere of Mars is in fact composed of carbon dioxide. Moxie was able to separate the oxygen atoms from the carbon ones, producing carbon monoxide as waste. To do it, it has reached a temperature of about 800 degrees Celsius inside. It did this thanks to the very heat resistant materials it is made of, mostly nickel alloy. An airgel flows inside to help retain heat, while the gold coating on the outside helps prevent high temperatures from damaging other parts of the Perseverance rover.
Meanwhile, the Ingenuity drone hasn’t stood still. After the first flight on April 19, it made a second one. If the first time he had reached three meters for about 30 seconds of mission, this time he reached five meters in over fifty seconds. In addition, he also made a slight maneuver in the air, leaning five degrees and accelerating, so as to move about two meters from the starting point, point the camera mounted on his belly in another direction, and then return to where he started.
This is how the Mars2020 mission continues to record successes. After arriving on Mars on February 18, the Perseverance rover conducted the first small excavations accompanied by a never-before-recorded photo gallery on the Martian surface. The first (metallic) sounds of his walks have already arrived, also made to identify the suitable place for the relaunch of Ingenuity and its subsequent take-off.
The NASA rover brought a 50% higher load to Mars than that carried out in 2012 by Curiosity (it was the Mars Science Laboratory mission). The main task is the collection of some samples of Martian dust, in view of the future mission for their recovery and transport to Earth. And the “Mars Sample Return” program, developed by NASA in collaboration with ESA, in which Italy also participates, consisting of a series of missions in succession up to the next decade.

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