Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Pumping Up The Gas
Washington - February 22, 1999 - An experiment to ride on Mars Surveyor 2001 will be the first attempt to produce oxygen using local resources - in this case carbon dioxide mined from the Martian atmosphere. Called in-situ production, the experiment will help pave the way for more substantial resource extraction that is critical to any human missions to Mars.

Professor K.R. Sridhar and his 20-member team at The University of Arizona Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME) Department are leading the experiment that will involve building an Oxygen Generating Subsystem (OGS).

In January 2002, it will suck in Martian atmospheric gases --predominately carbon dioxide-- and process them to produce pure oxygen.

"This is a landmark experiment," Sridhar says. "It is the first time in human history that we will produce a consumable of use to humans from extraterrestrial resources."

It will be the space exploration equivalent of standing on the brink of the Industrial Revolution, but with a gigantic resource base -- all the materials found on planets, their satellites, and asteroids in the solar system.

The oxygen could be used as propellant in rocket motors or for life support for humans on Mars. Since this is a demonstration experiment, the oxygen will not be put to immediate use on the Mars Surveyor 2001 lander.

But Sridhar hopes to have an experiment aboard the Mars Surveyor 2003 mission that will produce both fuel and oxygen from Martian resources. In that case, the oxygen and fuel would be used to launch a small rocket from the surface of Mars or to power a drill that would take core samples of the Martian surface.

"In the larger scheme of things, in 2007 we hope to perform a sample return mission that will rely on the propellant production technology we are developing to produce both the fuel and oxygen for a rocket to bring the sample back to Earth," Sridhar says. "We are working very vigorously on this."

The OGS will fly to Mars aboard Mars Surveyor 2001, which is scheduled to land on the Red Planet on Jan. 22, 2002.

Once on Mars, it will use solid oxide electrolysis to produce oxygen. The technology is based on an electrochemical cell that works as a solid state filter for oxygen. The electrolyte used in the OGS will transfer only oxygen ions across its crystal structure.

The unit weighs about two pounds and will consume less than 15 watts of electrical power to produce more than one cubic centimeter of oxygen per minute. This is twice the amount NASA specified in its contractual requirements for the oxygen generator.

"The challenges were to miniaturize the technology and to make the process very energy efficient, while producing a device that is rugged enough to withstand launch loads up to 35 Gs (35 times the force of gravity at sea level)," Sridhar says.

The space-qualified OGS is being built entirely in the UA AME Space Technologies Laboratory, where Program Manager Matthias Gottmann is supervising a team made up of staff engineers, graduate students, undergraduates, post docs, and exchange students.

OGS construction includes producing ceramic heating elements from scratch that heat up faster and go to higher temperatures than commercially available ones.

Producing resources in situ has many advantages, Sridhar explains. "By using extraterrestrial resources, you lower the launch mass from Earth and thereby reduce the cost. You also reduce the overall risk of a mission because you can produce safety caches of valuable consumables that will be available to humans at the destination."

But, he adds, perhaps the most significant aspect of in situ resource utilization is that it is the enabling technology that will make possible permanent settlements on other planets and their satellites.

  • Temp Link

    Surveyor Reports At SpaceDaily

  • Surveyor Completes AeroBraking
  • Surveyor Starts Final Aerobraking
  • Surveyor's Summer of Science
  • Aerobraking Resumes
  • MGS Safe After Battery RunDown
  • Surveyor's First Science Program
  • Surveyor In First Mapping Orbit
  • Surveyor Yielding Martian Science
  • AeroSurf Down To 13.2 Hours
  • Surveyor To Image Mars
  • Face Off on Mars April 6
  • New Mars Surveyor Images
  • Surveyor Braking Every 15 Hours
  • Surveyor Orbit Down to 19 Hours
  • Surveyor Speeds Up Aerobraking
  • Mars Duststorm Weakens
  • Duststorm Hampers Surveyor
  • Surveyor's Slow Slide Down The Gravity Well
  • Aerobraking Resumed

    Mars 98 Reports From Spacer.Com

  • Polar Lander Heads For Mars
  • Mars Polar Lander Ready For Deep Space 2
  • Arizona Team Gears Up For Mars Shoot
  • Planetary Society Calls For Vigorous Mars exploration Program
  • Kodak Gives Color To Mars
  • Third Mars Invasion Underway
  • Mars Here We Come
  • Second Mars Invasion Force Ready - Detailed JPL Univese Overview

    Mission Links

  • Mars Surveyor 98 - NASA portal site to Mars Missions
  • Planetary Society
  • Kodak's Motion Analysis Systems Division
  • Mars Color Imager
  • Mars' South Pole

    Mars Coverage at Spacer.Com

    Future Missions

  • Kirtland Recovers Penetrator Device
  • Europe Takes The Martian Express Lane
  • Robots To Colonize Mars
  • Mars Win Gives Goldin Political Leverage
  • GenCorp Wins Mars Test Deal
  • Mars Society Kicks Off August 13
  • A Red Mars Arising
  • Mars Base Needs Local Supply
  • NASA Tests Mars Rover


  • Martian Brew Could Be Alive
  • Mars MicroProbe Vacuum Tests
  • Mars Society Kicks Off August 13
  • Crustal Microbes Could Signify Life
  • Dust Devils Kickoff Storms
  • Meteorite Contains No Biological Life


  • A Panorama Of Sojourners
  • NASA Bids Pathfinder Good-Bye
  • Pathfinder Reveals Role of Water
  • Pathfinder Science Summary
  • Pathfinder Mission Huge Success
  • Mars Pathfinder: Mission Overview

    Thanks for being here;
    We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

    With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

    Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

    If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

    SpaceDaily Contributor
    $5 Billed Once

    credit card or paypal
    SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
    $5 Billed Monthly

    paypal only

    Memory Foam Mattress Review
    Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
    XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.