By Giuliano J. de Leon 

NASA’s MOXIE could make breathing in Mars a reality. The space agency’s new invention can turn Martian air into oxygen, making it a game-changer for future Mars explorations. 

According to Popular Mechanics’ latest report, it is impossible to breathe on Mars since its atmosphere is around 1% the density of Earth’s. Will this be beneficial for Elon Musk’s planned ‘Mars City?’

NASA's MOXIE as Game-Changer in Mars Explorations: It Turns Martian Air Into Oxygen
In this hand out image from Space Imaging taken by Space Imaging?s IKONOS satellite is Mars as it and the Earth reached their closest proximity in nearly 60,000 years August 26, 2003. This image was taken at 21:40 GMT (3:40 p.m. MDT) as IKONOS came out of the eclipse of the Earth and orbited over our planet?s northern pole. The Martian south polar ice cap is visible at the bottom.

“What breathes the most on a mission to Mars? Not the people,” said NASA MOXIE project’s Principle Investigator Michael Hecht. 

“It’s the rocket that is going to take you home from Mars, that is going to get you off the planet,” he added. 

On the other hand, NASA’s MOXIE will be essential once it is complete since astronauts traveling to Mars are having a hard time bringing around 55,000 pounds of oxygen from Earth to the Red Planet. Aside from this, the space crew also needs almost 15,000 pounds of fuel. 

How MOXIE works

Financial Express previously reported that MOXIE was developed by MIT. It is a specialized reverse fuel cell that primarily consumes electricity to produce oxygen on Mars. NASA explained that it uses a method called solid oxide electrolysis, which relies on MOXIE’s tube.

 NASA's MOXIE as Game-Changer in Mars Explorations: It Turns Martian Air Into Oxygen

(Photo : Photo illustration by NASA via Getty Images)

In this concept illustraion provided by NASA, NASA’s Perseverance rover fires up its descent stage engines as it nears the Martian surface to land in the area known as Jezero crater on the planet Mars. A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.

During the first stage, MOXIE will filter and pump Martian carbon dioxide into a scroll compressor, which will squeeze the air to Earth sea-level pressures. After that, NASA’s equipment will send the compressed carbon dioxide to the 10-cell solid oxide electrolysis stack.

Asad Aboobaker, a MOXIE collaborator and instrument systems engineer, explained that MOXIE’s electrolysis system is the key to making Mars’ air into oxygen.  

Parts of MOXIE’s electrolysis stack

MOXIE’s electrolysis stack consists of various specialized and metal-ceramic cells. They conduct electricity using oxygen ions when the equipment is heated to high temperatures. Aboobaker explained that an applied voltage allows MOXIE to selectively drive the oxygen ions. After this process, oxygen will be generated. 

Elon Musk’s ‘First Mars City’

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is one of the most popular people that invests in creating life in Mars. If this techniology is made available, a lot are expecting for the billionaire to get this, in order to help humans breathe in the Red planet.