What’s the big deal? Future astronauts will need oxygen to breathe and live, but oxygen is also a critical rocket fuel component. A single rocket launch off the surface of Mars carrying four astronauts might require about 25 metric tons of oxygen. The Martian atmosphere is 95-96% carbon dioxide, so there’s a plentiful potential source for this oxygen—we just need the proper technology to generate it. MOXIE is far from capable of fulfilling those needs, but it will lay the groundwork for larger conversion instruments.
What’s next? There will be at least nine more tests over the next two years. The first round of tests MOXIE is currently running are supposed to validate that the device really works. The second phase will run the process in different kinds of atmospheric conditions and during different Martian times and seasons. And the third will attempt to push MOXIE to its limits.
Perseverance, meanwhile, is continuing to do exciting work. The Ingenuity helicopter had its second flight Thursday and is set to fly at least three more times. The rover will then head on out to start its search for alien life and look for potential samples to store for delivery back to Earth one day.