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Mar 06 2015

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MIT is building an ISRU oxygen factory for Mars

Mars Colonization Edges Closer Thanks to MIT’s Oxygen Factory. It takes the CO2 out of the Martian atmosphere and converts it to oxygen at a rate of 20 grams an hours. It will go to Mars as part of the 2020 mission as a demonstration and proof of concept.

When Martian colonists start going to Mars in the 2030s, MIT expects to have a bigger MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilisation Experiment) available, able to produce 2 kg of Oxygen/hour.

NASA ultimately wants to send an empty rocket carrying a larger version of MOXIE to Mars, which will be used to fill the rocket with enough oxygen (it will take about a year and a half) to supply the astronauts with breathable air on their journey back to Earth. This will considerably reduce the cost of travel to Mars. The rocket launch will probably require several dozen tons of oxygen, said Jeffrey Hoffman to Business Insider.

“To get 30 tons of oxygen on the surface of Mars, you need to launch 300 to 450 tons of propellant from the surface of the Earth into Earth orbit,” he explained.

A ton of oxygen costs approximately $10 million to launch, so using MOXIE would provide savings of roughly $3 to $4.5 billion. In total, NASA estimates the cost of sending astronauts to Mars at between $80 and $100 billion.

Let’s see…2 kg = 4.4 pounds / hour. To produce 1 ton of O2 it would take Big MOXIE about 19 days, which it would take a little more than a year and a half to produce 30 tons.

But that’s only part of the puzzle (21% of it, to be exact). Breathing pure oxygen long-term is bad for the lungs, and while 100% oxygen isn’t flammable per se, it sure makes fires more spectacular and catastrophic. Producing O2 ISRU on Mars is good…figuring out how to cut it with ISRU Nitrogen will be better.

The News MIT page on MOXIE doesn’t address the Nitrogen issue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that MIT isn’t working it.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/03/06/mit-is-building-an-isru-oxygen-factory-for-mars/

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