Thursday, 19 October 2017

Plasma technology could supply Mars mission with oxygen

If robotic probes are ever going to be joined on Mays by astronauts, scientists have to figure out a way to produce a reliable supply of oxygen. New research suggesting plasma CO2 decomposition technology could help. Photo by NASA/UPI
Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Researchers in Portugal and France believe the Martian atmosphere could host plasma technology capable of producing oxygen. A reliable source of oxygen will be essential to any future manned explorations of Mars.
Scientists detailed the potential for Mars-based, oxygen-generating plasma technology in a new paper published in the journal Plasma Sources Science and Technology.
"Sending a manned mission to Mars is one of the next major steps in our exploration of space," Vasco Guerra, researcher at the University of Lisbon, said in a news release. "Creating a breathable environment, however, is a substantial challenge."
On Earth, scientists are working on plasma technologies to split up CO2 into oxygen and carbon monoxide.
"Plasma reforming of CO2 on Earth is a growing field of research, prompted by the problems of climate change and production of solar fuels," Guerra said. "Low temperature plasmas are one of the best media for CO2 decomposition."
The new research suggests some of these the CO2 decomposition technologies could be well-suited for the temperature and pressure conditions on Mars -- particularly In-Situ Resource Utilization, or ISRU.