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.