A group of retired spacecraft engineers and scientists are helping to design and build an experimental system to go on the Mars 2020 lander that will extract oxygen from the CO2 in the atmosphere : Elder statesmen of science unite for Mars mission – The Boston Globe
At an age when most are retired or thinking hard about it, they’ve put their minds together to help solve one of the great puzzles of human interplanetary travel. And NASA has awarded them $30 million to press on.
To be clear, these elder statesmen of science don’t plan to pay a visit themselves. They are building an oxygen-generating machine to ride aboard the unmanned Mars 2020 rover, an early version of a technology that could enable the next generation to breathe and burn fuel on Mars — and power their way home.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the abbreviated acronym for their instrument — the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resources Utilization Experiment — is MOXIE.
MOXIE would be the first real attempt by NASA to test a system necessary for “in situ” resource utilization, which is key to settlement of Mars and other sites in the solar system. Local resources must be used for long term residence in space rather than relying on supplies from earth.