New scenario for the Mars sample return mission being developed by the European Space Agency and NASA. The two agencies presented yesterday a new architecture of the mission in order to reduce its complexity, and what changes in the scenario of the operations on Mars. The return date of the Martian samples is unchanged, in 2033.
Since it landed in the Jezero crater on February 18, 2021, thecollected eleven samples of of rock and an atmospheric sample. While the rover of the continues its collection, on Earth, the mission that will bring them back to Earth continues.
Yesterday, NASA and ESA announced a new mission architecture and a new scenario on Mars for the. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the US Space Agency’s Science Missions Directorate, said that ” significant and beneficial changes have been made to the program, which can be directly attributed to the recent successes of Perseverance at Jezero and the amazing performance of [l’] martian helicopter “.
Concretely, NASA wishes to useto bring the samples to the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle), the which will be used to send them into Mars orbit. The European Space Agency’s Fetch rover, built by Airbus, which was to retrieve the samples and bring them to the MAV is therefore abandoned, as is the lander which was to bring it to Mars. Depending on the Perseverance rover alone to transport the samples is therefore a huge technological gamble.
Two helicopters in support of Perseverance
The most surprising announcement is NASA’s decision to use two helicopters for this mission! Their design was inspired by that ofwho made 29 flights to Mars and survived more than a year beyond his initially planned life. NASA did not detail the role and mode of operation of these two flying machines, explaining only that they will be used as a backup to recover the samples if Perseverance did not manage to bring them to the MAV. It’s still a mission very complex to implement.
The platform that will bring the MAV and the two helicopters, the Sample Retrieval Lander, will be equipped with a robotic arm provided by the European Space Agency for the recovery and transfer of the samples in the container and the contents in the MAV. This arm will also have a backup function. If Perseverance and the two helicopters cannot bring the samples to the MAV, this European arm will be able to carry out a relief collection.
The launch dates ofprovided by the European Space Agency and the Sample Retrieval Landerare provided for respectively in 2027 and summer 2028. The samples are expected to arrive on Earth in 2033, two years after those from the .
Bringing samples from Mars back to Earth would allow scientists around the world to examine the specimens using sophisticated instruments far too large and complex to send to Mars. Above all, this would allow future generations to study them at more or less regular intervals as analytical techniques progress, just as is done with.