NASA intends to create oxygen on Mars using gold, according to a new report. The report says the space agency plans to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen using a mechanism attached to one of its spacecraft that will take off on the Red Planet.
The agency said it will have a gold box that can convert CO2 to oxygen, called the in-situ Martian Oxygen Experiment, or MOXIE. According to a previous report, NASA's Perseverance rover will be launched to Mars by July this year, programmed to collect samples from the planet's surface. The sample will be sent to Earth in 2031 and will be analyzed in order to collect more data on the Red Planet.
This concept was formulated by Mikhail Hecht, the principal investigator of the instrument.
“When we send people to Mars, we want them to return safely, and for that they need a rocket to take off from the planet. Liquid oxygen fuel is something we could have made there and shouldn't have to bring with us. One idea would be to bring an empty oxygen tank and fill it up on Mars,”Hecht said in the report.
According to Webby Feed, the MOXIE will be crafted from gold to ensure there is minimal interaction with onboard electronics. In addition, the report also details that gold has an incredibly low emissivity, which means it does not generate heat efficiently, helping it survive the hotter temperatures on Mars.
Jim Lewis, Moxie's engineer, said the instrument functions by energizing the anode and cathode. The oxygen is then separated from the CO2, allowing it to be removed to be stored separately.
“This will ensure that there is no collision with any rover electronic boxes in the vicinity. Gold does not radiate heat efficiently because it has a very low emissivity,”Lewis explained.
The atmosphere of Mars is about 95% carbon dioxide, so there is enough of it to convert it into oxygen. Unfortunately, Moxie produces only a small amount of oxygen - about six grams per hour - just enough to keep a small dog alive. In addition, Moxie will not work all the time, as Perseverance requires energy for other equally important scientific operations. If successful, scientists will be able to prove once and for all that enough oxygen can be produced on Mars to sustain human life.