A team of scientists from the University of Lisbon, the University of Porto and the École Polytechnique in Paris has carried out a study that reveals that a mission to Mars could produce its own oxygen using plasma technology.
The space race is traversing a second golden age, largely thanks to the incorporation of private companies, such as SpaceX by Elon Musk. A manned mission to the Red Planet is one of the most anticipated milestones, but traveling to Mars is much more difficult than we think. One of the great challenges to achieve this is the creation of a breathing environment for the crew, and the discovery of these researchers could pave the way to overcome it.
In the paper, researchers point out that Mars, with its 96% carbon dioxide atmosphere, presents almost perfect conditions for creating oxygen from CO 2 through a process known as decomposition. This procedure consists of the division of the molecule to separate the two components, obtaining on the one hand oxygen and on the other, carbon monoxide.
“The plasma transformation of CO2 into the Earth is a growing field of research, driven by the problems of climate change and the production of solar fuels,” explains Dr. Vasco Guerra of the University of Lisbon, lead author of the study. “Low-temperature plasmas are one of the best means for the decomposition of CO 2 both by direct impact of the electron and by transfer of electron energy into vibratory excitation.”
In addition, decomposition has another advantage for space missions: apart from oxygen carbon monoxide is also obtained, which in combination with other components can be used to propel the rockets. “This approach could help significantly simplify the logistics of a mission to Mars,” adds Dr. Guerra. “It would allow for greater self-sufficiency, reduce risks to crew and costs, requiring less vehicles to carry out the mission.”