It’s no secret that we’re eventually going to have to get off this rock if we want to expand our understanding of the world as a species. Also, uh, we’re kinda running out of room. And resources. So getting Mars habitable would be a good thing, and NASA will be experimenting with doing just that, six years from now.
Among the list of awesome toys being sent to Mars on the next Mars rover mission is The Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilizations Experiment, or MOXIE for short. And, what, you might ask, is MOXIE intended to do?
It’s intended to convert the carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen. If that sounds like it might be important, moreso than you might think: The atmosphere of Mars is 95% carbon dioxide, so it’s a fairly renewable resource that, for example, would allow astronauts on Mars to easily make their own rocket fuel.
Or, of course, allow them to start placing lots of MOXIE units on the surface, and get that planetary atmosphere up to something a little more hospitable to us humans. At least in theory; you still have the problem of atmospheric pressure on Mars, which is so low that it allows water to boil at body temperature. That’s… kind of a problem, which is planned to be solved by releasing and converting all the CO2 in the soil and on the poles. Oh, and we’ll also need to figure out how to create a magnetosphere, and find a ton of nitrogren, argon, or some other inert gas as well. Making atmospheres is tricky!
But this is, at least, a first step. And besides, if nothing else, it will mean we get to Mars that much sooner.