Intelligent Machines

Fresh Air for Mars

NASA engineers have developed a system to extract oxygen from thin air-thin Martian air, that is. The device could provide breathable air and rocket-fuel oxidant for voyagers to the planet, where the atmosphere is primarily carbon dioxide. CO2 is fed into a zirconia disk that is heated to 750 C and sandwiched between platinum electrodes. The zirconia chemically breaks the CO2 into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen filters through the zirconia and is collected; the carbon monoxide cannot pass through the disk. NASA has demonstrated this “oxygen pump” under simulated Martian conditions at the Johnson Space Center, according to principal investigator David Kaplan. A real test will come when the device is included on the next Mars lander mission, scheduled for launch in April 2001. If it works, the system would help lower the mass and cost of future missions.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.