Making Oxygen on Mars (In-situ resource utilization)
I am a member of the MIT/NASA team led by Dr. Michael Hecht and Prof. Jeffrey Hoffman which developed and operates the MOXIE (Mars OXygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment). MOXIE is a payload aboard the Mars 2020 rover (Launched July 30, 2020). The goal of the experiment is to develop and demonstrate technology required to manufacture oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. This technology will enable the human exploration on Mars by creating oxygen needed to fuel the rockets to return astronauts to Earth. Without such technology, a manned mission to Mars may be economically infeasible, unless the explorers plan on never returning home.
Below is a gif showing the MOXIE instrument. It includes a scroll compressor to collect the thin atmosphere of Mars and a solid oxide electrolysis (SOXE) assembly which heats the SOXE and the incoming air and applies a voltage that strips carbon dioxide of oxygen ions and drives them across a thin piece of ceramic. Oxygen leaves one side and a mixture of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide is vented out the other. A sensor assembly will help us analyze what MOXIE will produce.
*Note: This is an unofficial page on the MOXIE project. The information here is a collection of what is publicly available.. Get the latest updates from the official MOXIE page HERE!
For the most comprehensive description of MOXIE modeling and SOXE characterization data, you can download my thesis below. The following text to cite it:
Meyen, F. "System Modeling, Design, and Control of the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) and Implications for Atmospheric ISRU Processing Plants" Doctor of Philosophy Thesis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. May, 2017. The thesis is a good reference on how MOXIE works, how the SOXE cells were characterized, and how to model a solid oxide electrolysis unit for studies in ISRU extensibility
A new paper should be coming out shortly in Space Sciences Reviews that will be even more comprehensive on the final MOXIE device.
MOXIE being lowered into the Mars 2020 Rover. Image Credit JPL.
List of MOXIE Publications
Hinterman, Eric, and Jeffrey A. Hoffman. "Simulating oxygen production on Mars for the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment." Acta Astronautica 170 (2020): 678-685.
McClean, John B., et al. "Filtration of simulated martian atmosphere for in-situ oxygen production." Planetary and Space Science (2020): 104975.
Hinterman, Eric Daniel. System modeling, graphical user interface development, and sensors testing for the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE). Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2018. Hartvigsen, Joseph, S. Elangovan, and Lyman Frost. "MOXIE Development Driven Prospects For ISRU and Atmosphere Revitalization." 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems, 2018.
Meyen, F., Krishnamurthy, A., Hoffman, J. A. "STPA Analysis of the Mars Oxygen Insitu Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE)" 2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference. Big Sky, Montana.
Nasr, M., Meyen F., Hoffman, J.A. "Scaling the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) for Mars Sample Return" 2018 IEEE Aerospace Conference. Big Sky, Montana.
Meyen, F. "System Modeling, Design, and Control of the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) and Implications for Atmospheric ISRU Processing Plants" Doctor of Philosophy Thesis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. May, 2017.
Hartvigsen, J., Elangovan, S., Elwell, J., & Larsen, D. (2017). Oxygen Production from Mars Atmosphere Carbon Dioxide Using Solid Oxide Electrolysis. ECS Transactions, 78(1), 2953-2963.
Hartvigsen, Joseph, et al. "Mechanical, Structural, and Thermal Qualification of Solid Oxide Elextrolysis for Oxygen Production from Mars Atmosphere Carbon Dioxide." ECS Transactions 78.1 (2017): 3317.
McClean, J. B., & Pike, W. T. (2017, June). Estimation of the Saltated Particle Flux at the Mars 2020 In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) Inlet. In Dust in the Atmosphere of Mars and Its Impact on Human Exploration (Vol. 1966).
McClean, J. B., Merrison, J. P., Iversen, J. J., Madsen, M. B., Araghi, K., Meyen, F., ... & Voecks, G. (2017, March). Testing the Mars 2020 Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) HEPA Filter and Scroll Pump in Simulated Mars Conditions. In Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (Vol. 48). Hecht, M. H., Hoffman, J. A., & Team, M. (2016, October). The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) on the Mars 2020 Rover. In 3rd International Workshop on Instrumentation for Planetary Mission (Vol. 1980).
Hartvigsen, J., Elangovan, S., & Elwell, J. (2016). Martian Oxygen: Creating Breathable Air with Engineered Ceramics. Ceramic Industry, 10-12.
Meyen, F. E., Hecht, M. H., Hoffman, J. A., & MOXIE Team. (2016). "Thermodynamic model of Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)." Acta Astronautica, 129, 82-87.
Rapp, D., Hoffman, J. A., Meyen, F., & Hecht, M. H. (2015). The Mars oxygen ISRU experiment (MOXIE) on the Mars 2020 rover. In Space forum.
Hoffman, J. A., Rapp, D., & Hecht, M. (2015). The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) on the Mars 2020 Rover. In AIAA SPACE 2015 Conference and Exposition (p. 4561).
Hartvigsen, J. J., Elangovan, S., Larsen, D., Elwell, J., Bokil, M., Frost, L. J., & Clark, L. M. (2015). Challenges of Solid Oxide Electrolysis for Production of Fuel and Oxygen from Mars Atmospheric CO2. ECS Transactions, 68(1), 3563-3583. Hecht, M. H., Hoffman, J., Rapp, D., Voecks, G., Lackner, K. S., Hartvigsen, J., ... & De La Torre Juarez, M. (2014, December). The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) on the yet-to-be-named Mars 2020 Lander. In AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts.
The instruments and their location on the Mars 2020 Rover. Moxie is front and center on the image. It will ride on the front right side of the rover. Image credit: NASA
The experiment will be using a Solid Oxide Electrolyzer (SOXE) to split the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide. The oxygen produced is analyzed for purity before exiting the device. Design challenges include, CO2 acquisition and pressurization, electrolyzing CO2, thermal issues, power consumption, guarding against failure, and creating a system that can survive a violent launch into outer space and an even more perilous entry through the Martian atmosphere.
Below is an old-school image of MOXIE. Compare it to the gif at the top to see how much the design has changed over time.
A rendering of MOXIE and the planned components. Image credit: NASA
Future and past MOXIE outreach events. Ask us a question in person.
Past Outreach Events: Tufts University Robotics Seminar. November 18, 2015 Cambridge Science Festival. April 16, 2016 MIT Humans to Mars Discussion Panel. April 23, 2016 MOXIE Parade, June 9, 2016 NASA Mars Day with #NASASocial. August 18, 2016
Copyright 2015-2019 Forrest E. Meyen Mars Curiosity Rover Image Credit: NASA