In April, thanks to an MIT-designed instrument, NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance achieved a remarkable milestone: it generated the first breathable oxygen on another planet.
The Martian atmosphere is about 95% carbon dioxide, but MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment), a small box-shaped device on board, converted it to oxygen through a technique called solid oxide electrolysis.
First the Martian carbon dioxide was compressed and filtered to remove any contaminants. It was then heated and separated into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen was isolated in a separate chamber, where the ions merged into oxygen gas, and the carbon monoxide was released back into the atmosphere. The test produced 5.4 grams of oxygen in an hour, and preliminary results suggested that it was nearly 100% pure.
“The first run of MOXIE is a step in the right direction to bring us closer to the possibility of human missions to Mars,” says Jeffrey Hoffman, a professor of the practice in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the project’s deputy principal investigator. Oxygen will be crucial not just for breathing but as a component of rocket fuel: according to principal investigator Michael Hecht, SM ’78, of the MIT Haystack Observatory, launching four astronauts off the Martian surface would probably require 25 metric tons of it.
This new data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against generative AI
The tool, called Nightshade, messes up training data in ways that could cause serious damage to image-generating AI models.
The Biggest Questions: What is death?
New neuroscience is challenging our understanding of the dying process—bringing opportunities for the living.
Rogue superintelligence and merging with machines: Inside the mind of OpenAI’s chief scientist
An exclusive conversation with Ilya Sutskever on his fears for the future of AI and why they’ve made him change the focus of his life’s work.
How to fix the internet
If we want online discourse to improve, we need to move beyond the big platforms.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.