NASA’s MOXIE experiment is creating oxygen on Mars


It may take a long time for any astronaut to land on Mars-NASA is talking about Early 2030s, And SpaceX’s Elon Musk has promised Will be fasterBut when humans do land on land, they may find a successor to MOXIE waiting for them. Any astronaut who comes to Mars may have installed their own equipment on their spacecraft to make breathing oxygen, so the bigger problem to be solved is to make the propellant they use to fly home. “If you want to burn fuel, you need oxygen to burn it,” Hecht said.

Hecht said that a four-person crew only needs about 1.5 metric tons of oxygen a year to sustain life, but about 25 tons of oxygen is needed to generate thrust from 7 tons of rocket fuel. The easiest way is to send an automated system six months before the crew arrives so that the astronauts have some oxygen waiting for them. This also means that they will have to carry less equipment from the earth. “The complexity of the massive equipment that produces 25 tons of oxygen for the propellant is not worth it,” Hecht said.

Some of these same calculations are being considered for future lunar missions, which may happen earlier than the trip to Mars. The NASA and ESA teams are working to heat the lunar soil (called the regolith) to extract oxygen.In fact, the weathered layer is 45% oxygen Beth Lomax, a doctoral student at the University of Glasgow and a researcher at the European Space Research and Technology Center of the European Space Agency, said that by weight, combined with metal elements such as silicon, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, iron and titanium, the Dutch.

Lomax and Alexandre Meurisse, a researcher at the research center, have been developing a device that can heat a weathered layer in a tank containing molten salt to extract oxygen from it. Like the MOXIE project, they use electric current to separate oxygen from other elements. But unlike MOXIE, they have a by-product: metal elements, which may be used as building materials for moon bases. (In fact, an independent team of ESA is considering a merger Astronaut urinating with weathered layer The formation of a reusable geopolymer building material similar to fly ash. )

Lomax said it makes sense to figure out how to use what’s already on the moon’s surface instead of skimming it over the earth. “As long-term space exploration and habitation seem to become more and more a reality, the use of resources will be necessary,” Lomax said. “For us, it is not feasible to continue to bring every kilogram of material we need from the earth. We have this huge gravitational well, and the energy required to send this material into space is huge.”

By using molten salt containers, Lomax and Meurisse are reducing the temperature required to extract oxygen from the lunar soil, from 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit) to around 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit).The temperature can reach Concentrating solarThis method has been proven in solar power plants in the southwestern United States.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, researchers are studying how to remove the metal by-products that accumulate in the reactor vessel containing the weathered layer during the electrolysis process. NASA researcher Kevin Grossman (Kevin Grossman) said this is important because the molten material is extremely corrosive and requires some way to extract metal and oxygen. The goal is to melt the weathered layer without touching the sides of the container. “If you take a bucket of weathered layer and you want to melt a golf ball the size in the center of it, how do you get it?” Grossman asked.


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