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NASA's Perseverance rover just made breathable air on Mars

perseverance makes oxygen on Mars

The Perseverance rover converted carbon dioxide into oxygen on Mars, marking the first time breathable air has been made on another planet, NASA announced Wednesday.

A toaster-sized instrument called MOXIE – short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – made the feat possible. Since Mars' atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide, MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules.

"This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars."

In its first test on the Red Planet, MOXIE produced about 5 grams of oxygen, the equivalent of 10 minutes' worth of breathable oxygen for an astronaut. MOXIE can generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour. MOXIE is expected to extract oxygen at least nine more times over the course of a Martian year – nearly two years on Earth.

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