Sometimes, it takes MOXIE just to breathe.

NASA is preparing for human exploration of Mars (sounds like a movie, right?) and producing oxygen will be a key component of that mission. The Mars 2020 mission will include the MOXIE investigation, and effort aimed in part and figuring out how to produce oxygen from the atmosphere on Mars.

MOXIE will collect carbon dioxide from Mars’ atmosphere, then convert it to oxygen. The oxygen can then be either consumed or used as a propellant.

If it works, we’ll be one step closer to manned missions to Mars.

Many of us spent time this week gazing heavenward, marveling at the sky, observing the Great American Solar Eclipse. For a few glorious hours on August 21, most of America seemed to pause, look up, and just collectively gasp in wonder at the rare and lovely sight of the moon passing over the sun. In some places, cheers of excitement erupted as the eclipse reached totality. In others, a sweet silence fell in the midst of mid-day twilight, with only the night-time sounds of confused crickets filling the air.

Some newscasters covering the event were overcome with emotion, shouting their excitement with great joy. Others were overcome with awe, and fell silent. The very same phenomenon inspired such different reactions.

Life’s challenges can be energizing, a problem to overcome, a puzzle to solve, like the effort to convert Mars atmosphere to oxygen. Those challenges are as life-giving as the oxygen we breathe, fueling creativity and energy and excitement.

Life’s challenges also have a way of reminding us that we are small, and that there are forces at play larger than ourselves. In those moments, it might be all we can do to be still and breathe, and remember that we, too, are incredible machines built to extract life from oxygen, and miraculously convert that oxygen back into carbon dioxide.

Life requires moxie, sometimes in different forms. Sometimes that moxie propels you forward, and sometimes it empowers you to be still.

How did you experience the eclipse? What challenges energize you? What challenges make you pause? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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