Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
On April 21st 2021, NASA announced that its partly 3D printed Perseverance rover had extracted oxygen from Mars’s atmosphere for the first time via its MOXIE system. (Perseverance landed on Mars in February 2021 and its main job is to look for evidence of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth. MOXIE is short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment.) In its first operation, MOXIE produced circa 5.4g of oxygen, which NASA claimed constituted circa 10 minutes of breathable oxygen for an astronaut.
MOXIE works by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules, emitting waste carbon monoxide into Mars’s atmosphere. (Mars’s atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide.) Designed to generate up to 10g of oxygen per hour, the conversion process requires temperatures of circa 1,470°F (800°C). To accommodate this, MOXIE is made with heat-resistant materials, including 3D printed nickel alloy parts that heat and cool the gases flowing through the unit, as well as a lightweight aerogel to help with insulation. In addition, MOXIE is coated in a thin lair of gold to reflect infrared radiation to stop it from radiating outward and damaging Perseverance’s other parts.
For further work, NASA intends to experiment with running MOXIE in varying atmospheric conditions, including at different times of day, during different seasons, and at different temperatures. NASA hopes that MOXIE’s technology will lead to extracting oxygen from Mars’s atmosphere to power rockets to transport astronauts, or give astronauts on Mars breathable air, which NASA argued would be much more efficient than transporting oxygen to Mars from Earth.
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