NASA Will Make Oxygen From CO2 On the Surface of Mars
It's extremely useful for future production of rocket fuel, or for when humans explore mars. It's a real step forward in helping future human exploration of Mars, being able to produce oxygen on surface of Mars.
Of course, when NASA lands the device on Mars in 2020, it will serve mainly as a test device, exploring how the Martian atmosphere, gravity, and other environmental conditions affect oxygen production. As NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier explained:
We're not so much using the oxygen, but seeing can we generate it, what's the production rate, what's the efficiency. Those are the general kinds of things we're looking at with this in-situ device. If you can make propellant for a craft's ascent stage to get off Mars, that really changes the mission design. Or if you can cache and store oxygen before a crew arrives, and have a habitable environment when we get there.
Similar tech has been used for years to make oxygen from carbon dioxide on the International Space Station , but 2020 will be the first time NASA plants such a device on another planet. Sounds like something out of the pages of a science fiction novel-say, Andy Weir's The Martian .