The next Mars Rover will make its own oxygen from CO2.

Scientific American reports on the technology that’ll help humans explore the Red Planet… first with fuel, then with air to breathe. The next machine to roll across Mars will help us figure out how to make oxygen:

Jack Mustard from Brown University suggests the Mars Oxygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment (MOXIE) technology could in future help refuel vehicles returning to Earth. ‘It represents an opportunity to sever the tether between Earth and exploration,’ says Mustard, who chaired the Mars 2020 science definition team.

Based on the current Curiosity rover’s design, Mars 2020 will carry seven instruments, including MOXIE, together costing approximately $130 million. MOXIE itself will be a reverse fuel cell, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, converting CO2 into oxygen and carbon monoxide via solid oxide electrolysis. The oxygen can then either be breathed by people, or burned as fuel.

It’s also planned to be packed with projects useful for finding signs of life.