Elon Musk's bold dream of humans landing on Mars and starting their own colony has taken a giant leap for mankind after news that oxygen has been created on the Red Planet for the first time.
The SpaceX CEO has been openly vocal about his hopes for life on Mars, previously pinpointing 2026 as the year his company could transport humans there, or earlier "if we're lucky". That vision is now increasingly looking like it could become a reality after a team supported by NASA have managed to produce oxygen on Mars seven times over an 18-month period.
In news reported this week, it was revealed how scientists were able to transform some of the carbon dioxide on Mars using an instrument "the size of a lunchbox" to produce oxygen instead.
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The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – or 'Moxie' as it's more commonly known, has been able to create oxygen at the rate of a small tree, with the seven occasions coming in various seasons and across night and day.
Research scientist at MIT, Dr Michael Hecht, who was been working on the project, said: “We have learned a tremendous amount that will inform future systems at a larger scale."
MOXIE deputy principal investigator Jeffrey Hoffman added: "This is the first demonstration of actually using resources on the surface of another planetary body, and transforming them chemically into something that would be useful for a human mission.
"It's historic in that sense."
The development is particularly pivotal as the creation of oxygen means a rocket can be fuelled for its return, while also allow astronauts to touch down on Mars without initially using any breathing apparatus.
This is significant for Musk, who aims to eventually ferry passengers to and from the Red Planet as a commercial venture.
The innovative Billionaire – who also owns electric car makers Tesla – currently has technicians working on preparing SpaceX's Starship rocket for its first orbital test flight, which could launch as soon as November.
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“We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
The plan is for the Starship spacecraft to eventually be a reusable vehicle that can take paying customers to the moon and Mars, similar to how an aeroplane is used to travel from country to country.
SpaceX has a lucrative contract with NASA to build the next moon landing spacecraft for the first time since 1972 after beating off competition to secure the deal, including from Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin project.
As reports The Mirror, One obstacle to MOXIE's progress is that it has so far not been able to create oxygen during Martian dawns and dusks, but the team at MIT are confident they already have the tools and expertise necessary to make that breakthrough.
"The next run coming up will be during the highest density of the year, and we just want to make as much oxygen as we can,” Hecht added. “So we’ll set everything as high as we dare, and let it run as long as we can.
“To support a human mission to Mars, we have to bring a lot of stuff from Earth, like computers, spacesuits, and habitats.
"But dumb old oxygen? If you can make it there, go for it — you’re way ahead of the game.”
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