How we could make oxygen on Mars, plus fuel to get home

Oct 25, 2017

By Andy Coghlan

Future colonists on Mars could use plasma technology to make their own oxygen.

The atmosphere on Mars is 96 per cent carbon dioxide, says Vasco Guerra at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. This can be split to extract breathable oxygen and carbon monoxide, a fuel that could give us
a “gas station on the Red Planet”, he says. He and his team calculate that creating a carbon dioxide plasma — a mush of ions made by passing an electric current through a gas — could split carbon dioxide from oxygen more easily on Mars than on Earth.

The lower atmospheric pressure on Mars would allow us to create plasmas without the vacuum pumps or compressors necessary on Earth. Also, the temperature of around -60°C is just right to let the plasma more easily break one of the chemical bonds that keeps carbon and oxygen tightly bound, while preventing the carbon dioxide from re-forming.

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One comment on “How we could make oxygen on Mars, plus fuel to get home”

  • @OP – The atmosphere on Mars is 96 per cent carbon dioxide, says Vasco Guerra at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. This can be split to extract breathable oxygen and carbon monoxide, a fuel that could give us a “gas station on the Red Planet”, he says.

    I first encountered a serious scientific study on using Martian CO2 and Martian water-ice, to produce both breathable oxygen and a vehicle fuel, in the report published by the British Interplanetary Society on PROJECT BOREAS.

    http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/projects/project-boreas

    In 2006 members of The British Interplanetary Society, led by the scientist Charles Cockell published an extensive report on the design of a human base located at the Martian North pole.
    This was Project Boreas and was named after the Greek God of the North Wind.
    The study ran from 2003 and was an international project involving over 25 scientists and engineers.
    Its primary aim was to design a station to carry out science and exploration in the Martian polar region.
    In particular, the retrieval of a core sample from the polar ice cap was seen as a primary objective of the mission giving vital information about the martian geological and climatological variations throughout the planets history.

    The crew would be up to 10 people remaining on the surface for 1173 sol-days. Any crew would have to deal with psychological and social problems with being confined within a small space and with the same people for so long.
    The crew would be kept busy by solving many technical problems as they occur, or by focusing on the science objectives of the mission.

    The study conclusions allowed for flexibility in exploration objectives, relating to the subjects of geology, geophysics, astronomy, climatology and astrobiology.
    The crew would embark on daily expeditions across the planets surface and make many discoveries to report back to Earth.
    The station was designed with present-day technology and considered all aspects to the station such as the power requirements, thermal control, science laboratories, human habitation and life support systems.
    Other aspects to the mission were also considered such as surface drilling and surface transportation.

    The station was designed with motorised habitation modules each separately delivered to the Martian surface, and then moved into place on tracks.
    To keep weight down, much of the structure would be inflated with locally melted water which would then be outside of an insulation layer, and re-freeze to provide structural support for the pressurised habitation modules.



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