A small, golden cube on NASA’s Perseverance rover has produced enough oxygen on the Red Planet to keep a human alive, at least for a while, however raising hopes for future colonies on the Red Planet.

In total, the MOXIE instrument has produced 122 grams of oxygen since landing on Mars in 2021, enough to support an astronaut for about three hours and 40 minutes.

Experts believe that future versions of the rover sent to Mars could store oxygeno to help future astronauts stay alive or produce fuel to bring them home.

Perseverance and its many instruments (including MOXIE) landed on Mars in February 2021 after a nearly seven-month journey through space.

MOXIE first produced oxygen in April 2021 and has now extracted oxygen from the Martian atmosphere a total of 16 times. The instrument produces molecular oxygen through a clever process that separates one oxygen atom from each carbon dioxide molecule drawn from the thin Martian atmosphere.

As these gases flow through the system, they are analyzed to check the purity and amount of oxygen produced. At its most effective, the MOXIE was able to produce 12 grams of oxygen per hour at 98 percent purity or betterNASA said.

The gold cube has proved more successful than its creators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expected, according to the space agency.

“MOXIE’s impressive performance shows that it is possible to extract oxygen from the Martian atmosphere – oxygen that could help provide breathing air or rocket propellant for future astronauts,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.