NASA and ESA have a very bold new scenario for Mars test return!

New scenario for the Mars test return mission being developed by the European Space Agency and NASA. The two agencies presented yesterday a new architecture of the mission to reduce its complexity and what changes in the scenario of the operations on Mars. The return date for the Mars samples is unchanged, in 2033.

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[EN VIDÉO] An inflatable Mars test trap
To recover a canister of samples, freshly taken from the red planet orbiting Mars, Thales Alenia Space has designed this inflatable gripper. We see it open here (the movement is accelerated ten times) and then close on the container (the sphere) and lock it. This device can also be used to capture space debris. © Thales Alenia Space

Since landing in the Jezero crater on February 18, 2021, it has Perseverance rover collected eleven samples of carrots of rock and an atmospheric sample. While the rover of Nasa continues its assembly 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 return of these samples. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for 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 fantastic performance of [l’] martian helicopter “.

Specifically, NASA wants to use Persistence to bring the samples to MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle), that rocket which will be used to send them into orbit around Mars. The European Space Agency’s Fetch rover, built by Airbus, which was supposed to retrieve the samples and bring them to MAV has therefore been abandoned, as has the lander that was supposed to bring it to Mars. Depending on the Perseverance rover alone to transport the samples is therefore a huge technological investment.

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 byIngenuity who made 29 flights to Mars and survived more than a year after his duration originally planned lives. NASA did not describe the role and operation of these two flying machines, explaining only that they will be used as a backup to recover the samples if Perseverance failed to bring them to the MAV. It’s still a mission robotic technology very complicated to implement.

The platform that will bring the MAV and the two helicopters, the Sample Retrieval Lander, will be equipped with a robotic arm supplied by the European Space Agency for the recovery and transfer of the samples in the canister 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 MAV, this European arm can conduct an emergency collection.

The launch dates for capture and return satellite to Earthprovided by the European Space Agency and Sample Retrieval Landeris stipulated in the respectivefall 2027 and the summer of 2028. The samples are expected to arrive on Earth in 2033, two years after the samples from MSR Chinese Mission.

Bringing samples from Mars back to Earth would allow scientists around the world to examine the samples using sophisticated instruments that are far too large and complex to send to Mars. Above all, this will allow future generations to study them at more or less regular intervals as analytical techniques develop, as is done with lunar samples from the Apollo missions.

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