Oxygen on Mars – level 3

08-09-2022 07:00

Scientists say that people can possibly produce oxygen on Mars with a device called MOXIE.

MOXIE is a prototype of a small engine that produces oxygen out of thin air. It touched down on Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover in 2021, and it’s now operating routinely in a variety of atmospheric conditions, including during the day and night, and through different Martian seasons.

The device is necessary for future astronauts to breathe there.

Thin air on Mars has carbon dioxide, and MOXIE can produce 5.6 grams of oxygen an hour, which is about the same as a modest tree on Earth. Scientists are hoping to scale up the device, so it can produce oxygen at the rate of several hundred trees.

25 tons of oxygen are needed to lift four astronauts off the surface of Mars. People could bring the oxygen from Earth, but it would be too expensive and not sustainable in the long term. MOXIE is a major step in living off the land when people go to Mars.

Difficult words: prototype (a first version of a device or vehicle), routine (as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason), scale up (to increase something in size, amount, or production).

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