We know more about NASA’s plans to bring back samples from Mars

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We know more about NASA’s plans to bring back samples from Mars

The NASA just decided a new way to bring back the samples collected by the rover Perseverance on earth. As part of the Mars Sample Return Programthe robot Sample Fetch Rover was to be sent to Mars to pick up samples collected from Jezero Crater. Now, we know that the American space agency will rather use the Perseverance rover itselfbut she is going send two helicopters similar to Ingenuity as reinforcements.

It has been several years since the NASA and ESA started working on this Mars sample return program. Initially, the Sample Fetch Rover was to retrieve the tubes containing the samples and transport them to the rocket that will take them into space. This rocket will then be intercepted by Earth Return Orbiter who will send the tubes to Earth.

Return of Martian samples
Credits NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to reports, engineers realized that the rover’s design had become too bulky. The rover and return rocket could no longer be carried by a single lander.

Why this new option?

According to NASA, the lander Sample Retrieval Lander won’t arrive on Mars until 2030. But the agency thinks the Perseverance rover will still be operational by then. So it will be up to him to transport the 30 rock samples towards the rocket which will leave in Martian orbit.

If Perseverance encounters a problem before it can complete this mission, the lander will try to land near it. Then it will be around rescue helicopters to get the samples. These helicopters will be designed according to the Ingenuity design. They will thus have small wheels that will allow them to roll towards the samples.

A new possibility

The Ingenuity helicopter was intended to prove that it was possible to fly a device on Mars. It was only supposed to fly a few times, but so farhe managed to make 29 flights. This feat gave NASA a new way to bring back the Martian samples.

According to the explanations of Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the scientific direction of NASA, they made the decision based on new studies and on exploits carried out recently on Mars. The new data allowed them to consider options that weren’t available a year ago.

So we meet in about 8 years to see if the Perseverance rover will be there to carry out its mission, or if the two helicopters will be necessary. The Earth Return Orbiter is scheduled to lift off in 2027 while the Sample Retrieval Lander will do so in 2028. Mars samples are expected to land on Earth in 2033.

SOURCE: Engadget

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