NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover

Perseverance, NASA's newest six-wheeled robot on Mars' surface, has a growing list of "firsts."

The Mars Oxygen Sensor is a toaster-sized experimental instrument aboard Perseverance.

The technology demonstration is just getting started, but it has the potential to turn science fiction into science fact.

"This is a critical first step in converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars," said the researchers.

Rocket propellant is oxygen-dependent, and future explorers will rely on producing propellant on Mars.

"Astronauts spending a year on the surface will probably use one metric tonne between them."

The atmosphere of Mars is 96% carbon dioxide. MOXIE generates electricity by separating oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules.

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