Mars 2020 Rover Will Carry a Terraforming Device
Between global warming and a rapid dwindling of resources, terraforming another planet might eventually be humanity's best bet. In 2020, NASA will send another Mars rover to the red planet with several payloads, one of which could potentially assist in making the inhospitable planet habitable for humans.
The Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilizations Experiment, or MOXIE, is intended to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on Mars into oxygen. Since the atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide, this technology could have very immediate applications, such as affording astronauts the ability to produce their own fuel. However, it could also have longer-range applications for the purposes of terraforming the planet, as placing many such devices all over the planet could potentially make the air breathable. (NASA seemingly opted out of this extraterrestrial miniature greenhouse, but this device would have the same potential oxygen-producing effects.)
"If you can actually cache and put oxygen in storage tanks before the crew even arrives and you know they have a habitable environment and place to go when they get there, that's tremendously important to us," said Bill Gersteinmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.
"We are excited... to demonstrate our abilities to harvest the Mars atmosphere and convert its abundant carbon dioxide to pure oxygen," said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for programs for the Space Technology Mission Directorate. "This technology demonstration will pave the way for more affordable human missions to Mars where oxygen is needed for life support and rocket propulsion."
The Mars 2020 rover, which is somewhat similar to Curiosity, is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. It will carry several other payloads, including an advanced camera system that will determine the mineralogy of the planet, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, and a spectrometer that can detect organic compounds. NASA is also planning several other rover missions with the Curiosity, the Opportunity, and the MAVEN orbiter, and they are also planning to send humans to mars by 2030.