Technicians in the clean room are carefully lowering the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover.
R. Lannom—NASA/JPL-Caltech
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If astronauts ever land on Mars, they’ll need air to breathe and (barring one-way colonization) a way to get home. We are closer to both possibilities thanks to NASA’s MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a small device attached to Mars’ Perseverance rover that separates oxygen atoms from the limited amount of carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. Over more than a year, MOXIE generated 122 grams of oxygen—NASA called it “approximately what a small dog breathes in 10 hours”—but it’s a crucial proof of concept. Since oxygen (combined with hydrogen) fuels engines, the tech could also supply “rocket propellant to future astronauts,” says NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy.

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