Making possible the technology to terraform inhospitable planets has captivated the imagination of science-fiction writers for centuries. With such power at our disposal, there is no limit to the number of planets we can revive, inhabit, and ultimately, destroy.
NASA scientists are taking a series of steps to realize this planet-gobbling dream with the planned 2020 launch of a new rover to Mars that will include an instrument (The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE for short) with the ability to convert Mars’ CO2 into Oxygen. Although the instrument is no where near capable of terraforming an entire planet, NASA hopes the instrument will eventually generate enough oxygen to fuel rockets and replenish the oxygen needs of astronauts living in shelters on Mars.
Michael Meyer, Mars Exploration Project lead scientist, says, “It’s extremely useful for future production of rocket fuel, or for when humans explore Mars. It’s a real step forward in helping future human exploration of Mars, being able to produce oxygen on the surface of Mars.”