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NASA Plans to Bring to Earth a Piece of Mars

There is a small number of human missions currently underway on the neighboring Red Planet. All the research being conducted by NASA”s rovers is, however, in situ, and so far, except for some meteors we believe originated from there, we haven’t really touched Martian soil.
Mars Ascent Vehicle concept 1 photo
For some time now, both NASA and its European counterpart, ESA, are working on setting up a so-called Mars sample-return mission. The goal is to have machines on Mars by the end of the next decade collecting samples and sending them back to Earth.

The project is still in its initial stages, but the two agencies have already tapped several other companies to work on a rover capable of reaching Mars and collecting the required samples.

According to ESA, the mission will require three launches. The first will be NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which will explore the surface of the planet, pick-up and store a set of samples in canisters placed in strategic areas.

Then, a second NASA launch will send the Sample Return Lander mission to land a platform near the Mars 2020 site. It will be used to deploy a so-called Sample Fetch Rover, a machine Airbus is currently working on.

The rover is supposed to roam the Martian wastelands, collect the samples from their locations then load them on into a single large canister on the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

The third launch in the one from Mars, which is supposed to get pieces of the Red Planet back to Earth for a closer inspection. The ship will be captured in Martian orbit by ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter and then head home.

Once in Earth orbit, the samples will be transferred into an Earth entry capsule. The two agencies say the samples will be sealed in a biocontainment system to prevent contaminating Earth with unsterilized material. 

“Bringing samples from Mars is the logical next step for robotic exploration, and it will require multiple missions that will be more challenging and more advanced than any robotic missions before,” ESA says in a statement

“Accomplishments in robotic exploration in recent years have increased confidence in success – multiple launches will be necessary to deliver samples from Mars.”


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