Both the general public and the space community are ready with bated breath for the launch of the Perseverance rover this summer season. The rover will travel to Mars and seek for indicators of historic life, and will alsocollect samples of Martian rock and soil.
However, even geared up with devices together with cameras and spectrometers, there’s only a lot science that may be executed by a low-powered rover. To actually analyze these Martian samples in full, we have to get them back to Earth.
That’s when the Mars Sample Return mission comes in. Organized by NASA along with the European Space Agency, the thought is to ship another rover in Perseverance’s footsteps to gather up the samples and bring them to a spaceship on the surface of Mars which might carry them into orbit, the place it could actually rendezvous with a second ship to carry them again to Earth.
The Sample Fetch Rover for this mission is presently under development by Airbus, involving engineers from Europe and Canada.
This plucky little rover is planned to be launched in July 2026, and can land within the area of the Jezero Crater near where the Perseverance rover will probably be touchdown next year. Then it’s going to trundle out across the planet to gather the tubed samples which have been prepared and left on the floor by Perseverance. This means the sample return rover should journey fairly a long way, in total around 9 to 12 miles, which doesn’t sound like a lot by Earth standards however is a long way to navigate on an alien planet.
The hope is that the rover will be capable to navigate autonomously, moving around 650 ft per day, and tracking down as much as 36 samples left by Perseverance. To permit the rover to navigate autonomously, the engineers are creating algorithms which use knowledge from the rover’s cameras to acknowledge the sample tubes even when they’re covered in mud, which is essential as high winds and a thin atmosphere make mud a typical problem on the planet.
The rover will grasp the tubes utilizing a robotic arm, then place them onto its body to hold them safely. Once it has carried them again to the sample return spacecraft known as the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the rover will unload the samples utilizing a unique robotic arm into a protected cocoon to allow them to be launched into orbit. Then they’ll be collected by the Earth Return Orbiter and introduced again to Earth for study.