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NASA looks to produce oxygen on Mars with next rover

Comortech - mars_2020_rover.siThe next Mars rover is going to be home to numerous ambitious experiments, including one that will see NASA try to produce oxygen on the Red Planet.

If successful, the project could help lead the way for a sustained human presence on Mars, as well as offer astronauts an effective method for producing rocket fuel that could be used for return trips to Earth.

According to the Associated Press, the device would accompany the next rover NASA will use to explore Mars in 2021. Dubbed “MOXIE,” it wouldn’t even create one ounce of oxygen every hour, but a successful operation has big implications for future missions.

The space agency is hoping to construct a device 100 times bigger and launch it to Mars two years before it sends its own astronauts in the 2030s, so it can start producing ample amounts of oxygen before they even arrive.“We are excited that NASA’s Space Technology Program is partnered with Human Exploration and the Mars 2020 Rover Team to demonstrate our abilities to harvest the Mars atmosphere and convert its abundant carbon dioxide to pure oxygen,” James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for programs for the Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a statement.

“This technology demonstration will pave the way for more affordable human missions to Mars where oxygen is needed for life support and rocket propulsion.”

While oxygen is just one of the primary ingredients needed to make rocket fuel, other parts – like the hydrogen used as a propellant – can be carried to Mars from Earth or extracted from the Red Planet’s soil. If NASA can effectively make fuel on Mars instead of lugging two trips’ worth in a spaceship, it could lessen a ship’s cargo load and decrease the cost of the trip significantly.

The announcement comes just a couple of days after scientists unveiled another potentially helpful oxygen-creating device: an artificial-yet-biological leaf made from protein extracted from silk fiber. Much like a real plant, the leaf uses photosynthesis to create oxygen, and its creator is hoping NASA takes notice.

Planning for NASA’s 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, but with new science instruments selected through competition for accomplishing different science objectives. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

 Meanwhile, the next Mars rover – which is scheduled to launch in 2020 – isn’t just going to pack an oxygen machine. It will be home to six other instruments, including a “SuperCam” for mapping the chemical composition of the planet’s rocks and soil, and another type of advanced camera capable of taking panoramic and stereoscopic photographs.

Additionally, the rover will be equipped well enough to gather rock samples and send them back to Earth fully intact – a notable improvement over Curiosity, which can only send samples back in powdered form.

“The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a statement.

“Mars has resources needed to help sustain life, which can reduce the amount of supplies that human missions will need to carry. Better understanding the Martian dust and weather will be valuable data for planning human Mars missions. Testing ways to extract these resources and understand the environment will help make the pioneering of Mars feasible.”

As RT reported previously, colonizing Mars is high on NASA’s list of ambitions. The agency’s chief scientist, Dr. Ellen Stofan, said putting boots on the Red Planet would be the most effective way of scouring it for signs of life.

“Humans can actually read a landscape, go through a lot of rocks – crack them open, throw them, pick up the next one,” she said in June. “Rovers are great, they do amazing science, but it is a lot more tedious process – they go much less far than a human can cover in a day. Having humans on the surface is how I think we are going to be able to demonstrate totally conclusively that life did evolve on Mars.”

Source: rt.com

One Response to “NASA looks to produce oxygen on Mars with next rover”
  1. Boinaali says:

    The one who has said that: it’s only those who dare and dream to change the world, can do something; was right… but sometime when we are thinking deeply about what Scientists plan to do; we realize that, maybe we are mad or I don’t know what; to believe on what they tell us.

    Let me just take one small thing::: how human being; whom isn’t able to care about earth where we know that our life is already established, will be able to care for a new place which request more things:: Exploration, made the Red planet vital for Human being…. and more???

    But as we know it, we just need to believe…. and hope that all these Dreams come true one day.

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