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Next Mars rover will try to create oxygen on planet's surface

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/4/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

New expedition expected to land device by 2021

The next Martian rover that NASA sends to the red planet will attempt to make oxygen on the surface when it lands there in 2021. In addition, the rover will carry seven scientific projects, aimed at paving the way for future manned missions, seeking evidence of life and storing samples to be brought back in the future.

Being able to produce oxygen could help with that ambition, since transporting fuel is heavy and expensive. Other NASA spacecraft can already produce oxygen from CO2.

Being able to produce oxygen could help with that ambition, since transporting fuel is heavy and expensive. Other NASA spacecraft can already produce oxygen from CO2.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
8/4/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Mars, rover, oxygen, 2021


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One of the devices will turn the CO2 that dominates the thin Martian air into oxygen which in turn could support human life or make rocket fuel for return missions.

The rover will also carry two cameras and an experimental weather station among its 88 pounds of instruments.

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"This is a really exciting day for us," astronaut and NASA administrator John Grunsfeld said in announcing the Mars 2020 scientific payload in Washington DC.

Weighing a ton, the $1.9 billion vehicle will be closely modelled on Curiosity, the rover that touched down on the red planet in August 2012.

Curiosity in comparison is carrying 165 pounds in its scientific kit. Some of that space will be used to package up cylindrical rock samples drilled from the planet's surface.

NASA hopes these can be shipped home by future return flights.

Being able to produce oxygen could help with that ambition, since transporting fuel is heavy and expensive. Other NASA spacecraft can already produce oxygen from CO2.

The new "MOXIE" device will test this capability in the Martian atmosphere, for the first time. An oxygen supply would also be essential if people were to land on Mars.

This change in focus was described as a "shift in gears" by Professor Tom Pike from Imperial College, London, and the co-investigator of the "MOXIE" instrument.

"It is very much about the old Star Trek 'boldly going', the real focus of this payload is exploration rather than science," he says.

"There are not very many places that humans can go after the Moon. I would say it's practically a list of one and Mars is it!"
 

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