Oxygen on Mars paves the way for human trips

“Fresh air”: Moxie can extract 10 grams of oxygen every hour.

Do humans have a right to move to Mars? A NASA rover has extracted oxygen from the air on Mars. It could make moving to the red planet much easier. But should we be going there at all?

What’s happening

The year is 2046. The Starship has just landed after its seven-month journey from Earth. Astronauts walk across the dusty, red ground to the entrance of the underground city. The door opens and they step inside.

“Phew”, one says as she takes off her helmet. “Fresh air at last!”

Find out more

The air on Mars is 96% carbon dioxide. Oxygen only makes up 0.13% of the mixture of gases. If humans moved there, every person would need an oxygen tank to stay alive.

But NASA could have a solution. Moxie is a small robot about the size of a toaster. It made the trip to Mars with Perseverance in February.

Last week, Moxie produced about five grams of oxygen from the air on Mars. This is enough for one person to breathe for 10 minutes.

This is the first time a machine has produced oxygen on another planet.

It could make human life on Mars easier. Buildings could have normal air. Nobody would need a tank to breathe.

Trudy Kortes, a NASA scientist, says: “It will help future missions live off the land”.

But do we have a right to move there?

Some say…

Yes! There is no proof that any aliens are living on Mars. We would not be in anybody’s way. Humans have spent time and effort travelling there. There is nothing stopping us building cities and sending people to live there too! We should celebrate our achievements and make the most of space travel.

Others think…

Not really. We don’t know if other life exists. What if we built a city and it harmed alien life we didn’t know about? And we don’t want to make mistakes. Cities, factories and cars are ruining our home planet. We have no right to go and do it again somewhere else.

You Decide

  1. Should space travel be banned until the climate crisis is solved?

Activities

  1. You are living in the first country made on Mars. Write a national anthem to celebrate your new home.

Some People Say...

“The guys who walk on Mars are going to be historic.”

Buzz Aldrin, American astronaut

What do you think?

Word Watch

Carbon dioxide
A chemical compound made of carbon and oxygen. It is the gas that humans breathe out as waste during respiration.
Oxygen
21% of the Earth’s air is made up of oxygen. It is essential for life.
Moxie
Short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment.
Produced
Created or made.
Live off the land
Traditionally this means to live on whatever food you can get by hunting, finding food or growing it. On Mars, this includes using the natural world to find oxygen to breathe.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.