How NASA plans to bring back samples from Mars?
NASA and ESA are hard at work to bring back rock and soil samples from Mars by 2030. This is the first time that samples will be brought back from another planet. The space agencies have narrowed down on a region called "Three Forks," located in the planet's Jerezo Crater. Meanwhile, the Perseverance Rover is storing the obtained samples in its casing chamber.
Why does this story matter?
- The most recent Martian sample picked up by the Perseverance rover was a piece of sandstone.
- To date, the six-wheeled robotic explorer has successfully collected 14 rock samples, along with an atmospheric sample. They are stored in the Rover's belly.
- Previously, Moon rocks have been brought back via the Apollo 17 mission. NASA is also planning to bring back a sample from asteroid Bennu.
Bringing back samples will be an extremely ambitious campaign
NASA calls bringing back samples from Mars, in partnership with ESA, "one of the most ambitious campaigns." The Martian samples will be brought back here in a step-wise manner with the usage of multiple spacecrafts. The selected spot for retrieval—Three Forks—is a relatively flat region located at the base of the ancient river delta in the Jerezo Crater region.
Check out the video explaining the sample return process
Explorers, assemble! @NASA and @ESA are teaming up to tackle a mighty goal: bringing rock samples safely back from the Red Planet. What @NASAPersevere is collecting now could be back on Earth by the early 2030s. See how Mars Sample Return would play out:https://t.co/OYQ6MLYxOa pic.twitter.com/ZXbwk7oOgH— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) November 17, 2022
Sample Retrieval Lander will be sent to Mars in 2028
A Sample Retrieval Lander, bearing a NASA-led Mars rocket and a pair of small helicopters, will be sent to Mars in 2028. The Lander will touchdown at Perseverance's landing location at the Jerezo crater. With the help of an ESA-provided robotic arm, the sample containing tubes on the Rover will be moved to the Lander's rocket. The helicopters will serve as additional transportation facility.
The Mars Ascent Vehicle is a 10-feet tall rocket
The Mars Ascent Vehicle, approximately 10-feet tall, will be the first-ever rocket to lift off from the Martian surface. It will transport the container of sample tubes into orbit, where ESA's Earth Return Orbiter would capture the sample container and transfer it into a clean zone for return to Earth. The Earth Return Orbiter would launch in 2027.
The samples will be packed in a disk-shaped vehicle
"The return system within the orbiter would capture and contain the samples, placing them in the Earth Entry System," explained NASA. "The Earth Return Orbiter would then ferry the entry vehicle and its precious cargo back to the vicinity of Earth, where it would separate and safely touchdown on land." Samples will be packed inside a disk-shaped vehicle for safe entry through Earth's atmosphere.
The Martian samples might contain clues of ancient life
The sample return mission will rendezvous with the Perseverance Rover and is expected to return samples by the early 2030s. The samples could contain distinct biosignatures and could reveal if life existed on the Red Planet. "Never before have a scientifically-curated collection of samples from another planet been collected and placed for return to Earth," said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator at NASA.