For a few months now, the Perseverance rover has been collecting rock samples from the surface of Mars. The goal? Deliver them to a craft that will bring them back to Earth for further analysis. An extremely ambitious mission.
Since February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover has been painstakingly exploring the surface of the Red Planet. Its main mission on Mars: to look for traces of past or present life forms. And among the tools at his disposal to achieve this: the collection of samples of Martian rocks. The operation started over a year ago. It’s going quite well. With already indications of results which could prove to be conclusive.
But collecting samples is fine. Being able to bring them back to Earth to analyze them in depth is even better. And this is the ambition of a joint mission of ESA, the European Space Agency, and NASA. The mission Mars Sample Return. One of the most ambitious ever attempted in space. The first to aspire to bring back samples from another planet.
Several machines for a high-risk mission
It will mobilize several machines. And even two new Ingenuity-type helicopters, we learned this summer. Without much more detail than the fact that they could serve as support for Perseverance, in case it struggles to get the samples to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MY V). ESA will provide the sample transfer engine, in particular. A 2.5-meter robotic arm that will be responsible for recovering the tubes filled with Martian soil. And to transfer them into the MAV, a kind of rocket which will then have to be launched from the surface of Mars to go into orbit around the Red Planet.
There, theEuropean Earth Return Orbiter will become the first machine to make a round trip between our planet and Mars to capture samples in orbit and then deliver them to the scientists who will be waiting for them impatiently, one imagines, in their laboratories on Earth. All this, not before 2033, a prioriif everything goes well.