Every NASA Perseverance Milestone so Far As Rover Makes Oxygen on Mars

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover has managed to extract oxygen from the thin atmosphere of Mars, in what the space agency said is a part of a growing list of "firsts" for the rover.

The extraction was carried out using Perseverance's Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) system—a toaster-sized box located within the rover. Michael Hecht, MOXIE's principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has called the box "a little mechanical tree."

It works by taking in carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen ones, from Mars' atmosphere and separating the oxygen atoms away. It then releases the resulting waste gas—carbon monoxide—back into the atmosphere.

To do this, the little box has to pressurize the CO2 and feed it into what is called a Solid Oxide Electrolyzer. It reaches an internal temperature of around 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit, using chemistry and electricity to split up the gas.

The oxygen produced is modest at the moment. MOXIE's first operation took place Tuesday, and NASA said it produced around 5 grams (0.2 ounce) of oxygen, enough to allow someone to breathe for 10 minutes or so. At full capacity, MOXIE can generate twice this amount per hour.

At that rate, it certainly won't make Mars' atmosphere, which is 96% carbon dioxide, habitable. But scientists think it could help future astronauts produce their own breathable oxygen on Mars without having to bring it with them. Oxygen is also fundamental in allowing rockets to burn fuel.

MOXIE is not the first "first" that Perseverance has achieved. Below are some other milestone accomplishments for the Mars rover.

First sound recorded on Mars

Shortly after touching down on the Martian surface, Perseverance captured the first sounds ever recorded on the red planet.

NASA released two different clips of the sound recording: one that filters out the noise of the rover itself, and another that includes it. A breeze of Martian wind can also be heard.

NASA engineer Elizabeth Duffy told CBS news in March: "Hearing the wind is just so awesome. When you think about it, we are hearing something that is so far away on another planet, and now we know what that wind actually sounds like."

Dropped off Ingenuity for the first-ever powered flight on another planet

On April 4, NASA confirmed that Perseverance had dropped the Ingenuity helicopter onto the surface of Mars. Ingenuity had been stored and kept safe inside the rover's belly.

Ingenuity later made global headlines after performing the first-ever powered flight on another planet. Both Perseverance and Ingenuity itself captured images of the milestone event this week.

Perseverance milestones

The following are a few milestones for Perseverance itself and not necessarily the first- ever time they have been performed on Mars.

On February 18, the same day the rover touched down on Mars, Perseverance sent back its first photo from the surface taken by an onboard Hazard Camera.

On February 24, NASA published the rover's first 360-degree panorama of the Martian surface, taken by its Mastcam-Z instrument, which includes a zoomable pair of cameras.

On March 4, Perseverance drove on the Martian surface for the first time, covering a distance of 21.3 feet as a mobility test. Until then, the rover had remained stationary.

Perseverance rover selfie
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here on April 6, 2021. The helicopter later made its first flight on April 19. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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