NASA’s Perseverance rover just turned CO2 into oxygen. The technology could help future astronauts breathe on Mars.

moxie mars perseverance rover Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment jpl
Technicians in the cleanroom at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory lower the MOXIE instrument into the belly of the Perseverance rover.

NASA sent the Perseverance rover to Mars with some bonus technology: a device that can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, much like trees do on Earth.

The device, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), pulled carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere to produce its first oxygen on Tuesday. It’s a small amount – 5.4 grams, enough to keep an astronaut healthy for 10 minutes – but it’s proof that the technology works on the red planet.

That’s good news for the prospect of sending human explorers to Mars. Oxygen takes up a lot of room on a spacecraft, and it’s very unlikely that astronauts will be able to bring enough with them to Mars. So they’ll need to produce their own oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, both for breathing and for fueling rockets to return to Earth.

mars human exploration settlement habitat astronauts martian
Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars.

“This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a Wednesday press release.

“MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one day seeing humans on Mars,” he added. “Oxygen isn’t just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home.”

The golden box holding the experiment is about the size of a car battery – just 1% the size of the device scientists actually hope to send to Mars.

MOXIE descendants could ultimately produce enough oxygen – roughly 25 metric tons – to launch four astronauts off the Martian surface. Producing that oxygen on-site would save a lot of space, weight, fuel, and money for the initial journey to Mars.

How MOXIE pulls oxygen out of thin air

Mars Perseverance Selfie 2x1
Perseverance’s ‘selfies’ on Mars.

This isn’t the Perseverance mission’s only technological first this week. Another experiment it carried to Mars, the Ingenuity helicopter, made history when it flew above the Martian surface for the first time on Monday.

“Tech demonstrations are a really, really critical element of our portfolio,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator, told Insider ahead of Ingenuity’s flight. “They basically enable new tools in our toolbox.”

NASA Perseverance
Perseverance took a ‘selfie’ with the Ingenuity helicopter on April 6, 2021.

NASA expects MOXIE to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere at least nine more times over the next two years. This first attempt was designed to make sure the experiment was working. Future runs will test MOXIE’s abilities at different times of day and across Mars’ seasons. The device is designed to generate up to 10 grams of oxygen per hour.

At the very least, MOXIE won’t run out of fuel for these tests. Mars’ atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide. The device uses heat and electrical currents to split those CO2 molecules into oxygen (O) and carbon monoxide (CO). Oxygen atoms don’t like to be alone for long, so they quickly combine into O2 molecules – the oxygen that we breathe.

The final product should be almost pure molecular oxygen: about 99.6% O2.

MOXIE then releases both the oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet’s atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen in tanks for later use.

mars perseverance rover moxie installation jet propulsion laboratory nasa
Workers install MOXIE into the chassis of the Perseverance Mars rover at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California on March 20, 2019.

Converting carbon dioxide to oxygen isn’t the only way that future astronauts could live off the Martian land. Scientists and engineers have also proposed using on-site rocks to build structures, or even digging up Martian or lunar ice to make drinking water or rocket fuel.

Regardless of which method it chooses, NASA will have to get resourceful in order to expand human presence into deep space. MOXIE’s success puts one more technology in its toolbox.

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OneWeb, a new satellite company from the UK, is going head-to-head with SpaceX’s Starlink to provide a global space broadband service

A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage block and 36 OneWeb satellites blasts off from a launch pad of Vostochny Cosmodrome.
A Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with a Fregat upper stage block and 36 OneWeb satellites blasts off from a launch pad of Vostochny Cosmodrome.

  • SpaceX rival OneWeb has expanded its constellation to 146 satellites that beam internet down to Earth.
  • OneWeb’s Chris McLaughlin said the number of satellites Musk and Bezos want to launch is an issue.
  • Launching thousands of satellites is “not a responsible way forward for the next generations,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Space internet provider OneWeb recently blasted 36 satellites into orbit, steadily expanding its constellation in the face of Elon Musk’s Starlink.

The British-owned satellite broadband operator, which was rescued from bankruptcy by the UK government in November, wants to beam internet down to households and businesses across the world from satellites in orbit.

Across the Atlantic, SpaceX is planning exactly the same thing. The only difference is that Musk’s company is way ahead of OneWeb. It currently has around 1,300 satellites at 550 kilometres in orbit and plans to launch 42,000 by mid-2027.

OneWeb plans to have 648 satellites at 1,200 km in orbit to provide a global service. The company’s most recent launch on March 25 took it up to 146 satellites.

“We’re beginning to think less is more,” said Chris McLaughlin, chief of government, regulation and engagement at OneWeb.

He told Insider that the main issue in the space industry right now is “the sheer number of satellites that Musk and Jeff Bezos want to put up.”

Amazon-founder Bezos hasn’t launched any satellites yet but aims to get a fleet of 3,236 in orbit in the near future for its Project Kuiper.

“[Musk and Bezos] both want to put them up in the same place at 550 km and have nobody else in their way,” McLaughlin said.

Thursday’s launch was the second out of five OneWeb launches this year to deliver internet coverage to the top of the globe down to the 50th degree latitude, according to McLaughlin. This includes Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia, the Nordic countries, and northern Europe.

The fifth launch will be in June, when OneWeb aims to provide broadband to the whole of the UK. By mid-2022, areas down to 21 degrees latitude will be covered, McLaughlin said, including the rest of Europe and parts of Africa.

Put in comparison with Starlink, which operates across six countries worldwide, OneWeb seems to lag behind. But the London-based company says its tactics are deliberately slower.

“Do you want the low Earth orbit completely messed up because of collisions between two billionaires satellites?” McLaughlin said. “Or would you prefer a more gradualist approach, like OneWeb is doing?”

The way that the big space companies are launching thousands of satellites is “not a responsible way forward for the next generations to be able to benefit from space,” according to McLaughlin, who added that OneWeb is “adopting a more responsible use of space.”

How OneWeb’s technology works

OneWeb works around a business-t0-business model – it delivers internet service to existing telecommunications companies who then distribute the internet to homes and businesses. OneWeb will leave the pricing for the telecom firms to set because “they know their customers best,” McLaughlin said.

Musk’s SpaceX, on the other hand, targets consumers directly with its satellite internet. So far, it’s gained more than 10,000 users and already plans to connect moving vehicles, such as trucks and planes, to Starlink. Users can set up the $499 Starlink kit, including a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal, from their own home

Read more: SpaceX investor Draper Associates backed futuristic data capture startup Cipher Skin in a $5 million funding round after seeing this pitch deck

“We are not going down the ‘send you a box and tell you to install it’ route,” said McLaughlin. Instead, OneWeb users may have a wifi antenna mounted on their house, rather than a satellite dish.

Like Starlink, OneWeb could be part of the UK’s government’s $6.9 billion Project Gigabit internet plan, which aims to provide faster broadband to more than 1 million homes and businesses in rural areas of the country. SpaceX reportedly took part in discussions with a UK minister on March 22.

McLaughlin confirmed that OneWeb is also included in the plans for Project Gigabit and has “held ministerial and other discussions.”

Neil Masterson said in an interview with CNBC on March 25 that the company “has been speaking to various elements of the government” and other organizations in the UK.

Now that the UK is joining the likes of Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and Canada’s Telesat, McLaughlin said it’s exciting for the British economy to have a slice of the space industry too.

“Who knew that Britain was in the space business?” he said.

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SpaceX is betting big on its UK Starlink rollout, and is in talks to become part of the government’s $6.9 billion ‘Project Gigabit’ plan for rural internet

elon musk starlink internet 4x3
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet is spreading fast across the UK.

  • Elon Musk’s SpaceX is in talks with the UK government to provide Starlink internet to rural areas.
  • Starlink could become part of the government’s $6.9 billion “Project Gigabit” internet plan.
  • SpaceX has also signed a deal with a British telecoms company to connect satellites with fibre networks, The Telegraph reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

SpaceX is in talks with the UK government about expanding its satellite-internet service Starlink to rural areas as part of the nation’s $6.9 billion “Project Gigabit” plan.

SpaceX on Friday met with the UK minister for digital infrastructure, Matt Warman, a person with knowledge of the discussions told CNBC on Monday. The UK’s culture secretary confirmed on Friday that Starlink was being considered for getting internet to hard-to-reach communities in the UK.

On top of Project Gigabit discussions, SpaceX has also signed a deal with British telecoms company Arqiva to build ground stations and infrastructure to connect satellites to fibre networks and servers, a space industry insider told The Telegraph on Monday.

An Arqiva spokesperson declined to comment to Insider. SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The first phase of Project Gigabit was launched on Friday. The project promises to offer faster internet to more than 1 million homes and businesses in remote areas of the UK.

If Starlink and the UK reach a deal over Project Gigabit, Elon Musk’s space company could benefit from government funding to accelerate its coverage in the country. In the US, Starlink won nearly $900 million from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December to deploy internet connection in underserved American communities.

Local internet providers in the US said Starlink shouldn’t get the FCC funding, saying the company uses “unproven” technology.

Starlink rival OneWeb also an option

The UK’s culture secretary Oliver Dowden told Sky News on Friday that Starlink was one of the best ways to deliver internet in hard-to-reach communities, though other alternatives were being considered, such as balloons or autonomous aircraft, he said.

But Starlink satellites or those from OneWeb – a UK satellite company that was rescued by the government from bankruptcy in November 2020 – are preferred options because their technology are already in use, Sky reported.

People in the UK who signed up for Starlink began getting their kits at the end of December. Insider spoke to one of the first Starlink users in the UK, Philip Hall, who lives in rural Devon.

He said the service, which offers average speeds of around 150 megabits per second (Mbps), was “absolutely transformational.”

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Starlink users explain how you can set up the internet service in your own home in 5 straightforward steps

Elon Musk's Starlink terminal
Elon Musk’s Starlink terminal.

  • Starlink users shared with Insider the five steps to setting up Elon Musk’s Starlink internet.
  • The kit comes connected in the box. All you need to do is plug it in and download the Starlink app.
  • “I am now a real participant, of the 21st century!” one Starlink user told Insider.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

With more than 10,000 users worldwide and $99 preorders in more than six countries, demand for SpaceX’s Starlink internet network is rapidly growing.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket carried another 60 satellites up into orbit on Sunday, taking the number of Starlink satellites to 1,241 and expanding the internet network even more.

CEO Elon Musk’s goal is to build a high-speed broadband system run by satellites that wrap around the Earth and provide internet to people, especially those in rural areas. There could be up to 42,000 satellites in orbit by mid-2027.

The question is, how do you set up the $499 satellite service from your own home?

Starlink users revealed to Insider the five steps to assemble the speedy satellite internet from their own home.

1. Find an open space

For Starlink to provide the best speeds, the terminal needs to have about 100 degrees of clear sky above it to easily connect to the satellites. Prepare to set up the kit here.

The Starlink kit arrived to Hall's house on New Year's Eve
Starlink box.

2. Open the box and look at the instructions

When you open the grey Starlink box, there’s a sheet of paper with three drawings – no words. These are the instructions. Take the instructions out and you’ll find the Starlink kit neatly stacked with the tripod on top of the terminal next to the router and 100 feet-worth of thick black cable.

Users told Insider the terminal -nicknamed “dishy” – weighs around 10 pounds.

3. Build the kit

Put the tripod on the ground and click the rod of the terminal into the tripod. The router is already connected to the terminal and the cable.

Alternatively, if you want to attach the Starlink securely to a roof or pole, you can buy a “Volcano Roof Mount” or a “Pipe Adapter” from the Starlink website.

“It was literally so easy to set up as everything is already plugged in and ready to go,” said Dan Ventrudo, who is based in northern Ontario in Canada.

4. Power up Starlink

Plug the end of the cable into a power source to get Starlink up and running. Two white lights will appear on the power brick. The terminal will then tilt upwards.

“The ordering and set up process was truly, simple and easy,” said Gary Konkol, from Wisconsin. “I am now a real participant, of the 21st century!”

5. Download the Starlink app

Go onto the app store on your smartphone to download the Starlink app.

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Satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Click the “Start Setup” button, it’ll then ask you if all the kit is plugged in. Click “Open Wifi Settings” and join the Starlink network. Then set up your WiFi with a name and password on the app, and connect to it on your phone’s WiFi settings.

Go back to the app to check when the terminal connects to the satellites. It will then tilt to align with any of the 1,241 Starlink satellites in orbit. This may take a few minutes.

“That whole process from unboxing to having speedy internet was about 20 minutes,” said Tom Gooch, a Starlink customer in rural Montana, who positioned his terminal on top of his roof.

Check out contributor Alex Lockie’s experience with Starlink after moving to rural Vermont and the comparison with Hughes Net.

Are you a Starlink user with an interesting story about the service? How have you found Starlink customer support? Get in touch with this reporter at kduffy@insider.com.

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A SpaceX engineer has pleaded guilty to DOJ charges of insider trading on the dark web

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

  • SpaceX engineer James Roland Jones pleaded guilty to insider trading on the dark web, the DOJ said Thursday.
  • He called himself “MillionaireMike” and was sold information by an undercover FBI agent.
  • Separately, the SEC has charged him with selling “insider tips” on the dark web in exchange for bitcoin.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A SpaceX engineer has pleaded guilty to charges of insider trading on the dark web, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Thursday.

James Roland Jones, from Hermosa Beach in California, faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, the DOJ said in a statement.

Under the username “MillionaireMike,” Jones bought and sold personally identifiable information on the dark web, including names, addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers, between 2016 and 2017, the DOJ said.

The DOJ alleged the 33-year-old used this information to open up fake accounts to conduct trades on material, non-public information (MNPI), data on a company that has not been made public but could impact its share price if shared.

In April 2017, an undercover FBI employee sold Jones purported insider information about a publicly traded company in the US, the DOJ said.

Jones and another conspirator the DOJ didn’t identify made numerous securities transactions between April 18, 2017 and May 4, 2017, based on the company insider information.

According to the DOJ, Jones told the agent in July 2017 that he had separate non-public information on another US company.

In a separate set of charges, the Securities Exchange Commission on Thursday accused Jones of falsely claiming to have what he called “insider tips” and selling them on the dark web in exchange for bitcoin.

The SEC said in its complaint that Jones’s tips were usually predictions that a stock would go up or down.

Traders then paid Jones for the tips through bitcoin and he made around $27,000, according to the SEC.

The DOJ identified Jones as a SpaceX engineer but didn’t state whether he still worked for the company or did at the time of the crime. The SEC didn’t mention SpaceX in its complaint.

The SEC said this was the first case in which it has brought an enforcement action alleging securities violations on the dark web.

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SpaceX says its Starlink satellite internet, still in beta, now has more than 10,000 users worldwide

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • SpaceX said in a public filing Thursday that Starlink has more than 10,000 users in the US and abroad.
  • Elon Musk’s aerospace company launched the Starlink public beta in October.
  • In the filing, SpaceX requested that it be made eligible for federal cash to expand Starlink.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service has amassed more than 10,000 users across the world, just four months after entering beta, Elon Musk’s aerospace company said in a filing Thursday.

SpaceX said in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad are using the service today.”

In the petition, SpaceX asked the FCC to be designated an “Eligible Telecommunications Carrier” (ETC), making it eligible for federal cash, including the money from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) that it won in December. 

The RDOF is a $20.4 billion effort to spread high-speed internet across America, particularly to rural regions.

Read more: SpaceX is finalizing a massive new funding round. Here’s why investors are clamoring for one of the world’s most valuable startups.

The FCC in December awarded SpaceX nearly $900 million to expand Starlink in the US as part of the first phase of the RDOF.

But SpaceX didn’t immediately get the money. It must clear more hurdles and provide more detail on its plans – the ETC is part of this.

SpaceX said the ETC would help it quickly expand its service to new areas, specifically Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The petition noted that the space firm won access to those areas under the RDOF.

SpaceX’s award under the RDOF has annoyed small internet service providers, who said on Thursday that the company, as well as other large firms, used “unproven” technology and called on the FCC to “aggressively” vet winning applications.

The Starlink public beta test, called “Better Than Nothing Beta,” now operates in the northern US, Canada, and parts of Europe. UK regulators approved Starlink in January and Insider spoke to one of the first British users to receive the Starlink kit.

Speeds vary from 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps, SpaceX said in an email to subscribers when the beta launched. Access costs $99 a month, plus $499 upfront for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the satellites.

So far, the company has launched more than 1,000 working satellites into orbit via its reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The most recent launch was on Thursday, when the Falcon 9 delivered 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. 

The goal is to build a high-speed internet service which stretches across the world. SpaceX wants to launch up to 42,000 satellites by mid-2027.

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