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Space & Astronomy

NASA and ESA to work on Mars sample return

April 27, 2018 | Comment icon 8 comments



NASA's next Mars rover will collect and store samples of Martian soil. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The space agencies are working on a series of missions designed to return samples of Martian soil back to Earth.
Even though the Mars Curiosity rover has the ability to collect and study soil samples using its own science instruments, the only way we are ever going to truly understand the complexities of the Red Planet's soil chemistry, as well as its potential for supporting life, is to examine the samples first-hand.

To this end, NASA and ESA have been working on a complicated series of missions designed to collect and transport samples of Martian soil and rock to Earth for further study.

The first step will be carried out by NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 rover which will be equipped with facilities to collect and store tiny samples of soil for collection at a later date. ESA's ExoMars lander will also do something similar when it lands on the planet in 2021.
The next phase would involve sending a small retrieval robot to rendezvous with the rovers, pick up the samples, and then launch them in to orbit around Mars.

A third spacecraft would then be sent to retrieve the samples before returning them to the Earth.

To succeed, not only will each part of the process need to go without a hitch, but the samples will need to be protected from contamination - especially once they actually land back on our own planet.

It is estimated that it may take until 2030 at the earliest to actually accomplish all three phases.

Source: Extreme Tech | Comments (8)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
Now, this is realistic, and with a realistic timetable. I laugh every time someone talks about sending people to Mars.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
People laughed when heavier than air flight was proposed. People laughed when Tsiolkovsky and Goddard said rockets could take humans into space. People laughed when Kennedy said the USA would land a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. There are always people that laugh, eventually they always end up looking foolish. †
Comment icon #3 Posted by pallidin 4 years ago
The most daunting task, by far, will be lifting those samples into orbit.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
Obviously it won't be easy, but I'm not sure that it is as daunting as it would have been even a decade ago. Unlike the moon there is an (albeit very thin) atmosphere on Mars. which complicates things, however the rocket needed to lift those samples to orbit can be surprisingly small. The amount of fuel needed for reaching orbit rises almost exponentially with the gravity of the planet.. higher velocity need to reach orbit requires more fuel, but more fuel increases mass, which requires more fuel. Because Mars has only 1/3 the surface gravity of Earth then a very small launch vehicle will do t... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by cyclopes500 4 years ago
They won't manage it. Each time a new president gets into the white House they make changes. Money already spent gets wasted and the hidden total cost goes up even more. The only time this might change is when it becomes likely Chinese and Russian boots will be on the Red planet first. It'll be the same with the moon. You'll see Chinese astronauts standing next to a US rover. On its neck will be flying the Chinese flag. Or worse. A pipe popping out of a space suit and the bloke p***ing on the rover. Meanwhile ESA will be sitting on a US made bus on earth owned by a company called NASA. It'll h... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by cyclopes500 4 years ago
Remember it's Mars. Out of all the places in our solar system it's the only one likely to be terraformed. Would you want your descendants breathing Marsian air without a suit and looking up at a Chinese monument with a blue sky in the background? I wouldn't with their record.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
Quite frankly I hope that by the time our descendants are breathing Martian air such petty jingoism is a thing of the past.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 years ago
Here is a NASA/ESA video on the concept: †


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