no return of Martian soil samples for a decade

Program Mars sample return (MSR) Martian sample return is still in the mission design phase, ie. in stage A (this continues until implementation in stage E). Just for the occasion Space Science Week (Space Science Week) at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that Thomas Zurbuchen (Deputy Director NASA for scientific missions) announced major changes for MSR.

In fact, the program is already running! in all-terrain vehicle American perseverance, which landed in Jezero Crater in February 2021, is already collecting rock samples. He stores them separately in cigar-shaped capsules. Perseverance keeps samples in its cockpit until there are enough to place on the surface. The MSR program is responsible for their return to Earth.

Duplication of the recovery mission

The MSR program has had two missions so far, one to retrieve samples and the other to return them to Earth. The first had a rover to pick up the capsules, which then took them to a small rocket. Later, a small rocket will take off from Mars, but it will not have enough power to reach Earth. Then it will spin around Red Planet. It will then be the turn of a second probe mission to collect samples in orbit and bring them back to Earth.

Today, NASA ruled that both rovers (Fetch Rover) with a Martian rocket (Mars ascent vehicle) would be too difficult and too risky. Indeed, this is a lot of payload in one flight, which leaves too little margin of safety. Therefore, we decided to split the mission into two flights: the first for the returning rover and its landing platform, the second for landing a Martian rocket to Mars near the rover.

So there will be a lot of people lake crater, especially since the MSR program is a collaboration between NASA (American Space Agency) and ESA (European Space Agency). The latter provides Fetch Rover as well as a probe returning samples to Earth (Earth return orbiter). Both will be manufactured by Airbus Defense & Space. From the US side, NASA is supplying landers, a sample capture mechanism, a capsule for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, as well as Mars ascent vehicle with the help of manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Biennial phased program

The sample-hunting rover was originally scheduled to leave in 2026. After an independent review of the mission, NASA indicated that this would ultimately not be feasible and that it would instead have to wait for the next one. window a launch that only happens every 24 months to get to Mars from Earth without spending too much time and fuel.

So the rover will leave in 2028, just like Mars ascent vehicle shortly thereafter on another flight. I’Earth return orbiter will leave in 2027 (no change). Like everyone else, the program – extremely complex, it must be said – is delayed by two years, and it will also be on the date of return of samples to Earth, now scheduled for 2033.

This new schedule does not include additional costs associated with this program, in particular the cost of launcher and an additional landing module. Phase A of the mission will end at the time of the review scheduled for June. The mission can then move on.

Ambitious Mars Sample Return mission takes shape: first equipment tests

The mission began last February with the landing of the Perseverance rover, designed to collect Martian samples. Mars sample return the development and testing of the second all-terrain vehicle, designed to collect samples and deliver them to Earth, continues.

Article Gaspar Solomonpublished December 15, 2021

The result of cooperation between the American and European space agencies, NASA and ESA, the mission Mars sample return seeks to return Martian soil samples to Earth, a first in the field of space exploration. Started in February last year with the landing of the rover perseverance (Mission Mars 2020) in Jezero crater, mission Mars sample return should see the arrival of Martian samples to Earth in 2031.

Space program in three stages

The first stage of the program Mars sample return, whose ultimate goal is to discover possible traces of past life on the Red Planet, has been a great success. Perseverance rover (also accompanied by an airbot ingenuity) landed on Martian soil in February last year at the bottom of Jezero crater; it has since enabled, among other things, the collection of several samples of Martian soil, mostly from rocks, which likely retained biochemical traces of life for several billion years. Perseverance has already managed to collect four Martian rock samples that must be sent back to Earth for scientists to resolve, unlike the mission ExoMars who will analyze the samples in situ, analyze and study them with much more efficient laboratory equipment that is too large to be sent to Mars.

Once the samples have been collected, the mission requires the use of a second lander operated by NASA and called the SRL (Sample Recovery Lander), which includes, on the one hand, a rover responsible for collecting samples taken by Perseverance, as well as a small rocket (christened Mars ascent vehicle), responsible for returning samples to Mars orbit. Samples will be packed into a rocket using a manipulator. roboticsprior to joining the European ERO orbiter (Earth return orbiter), where the samples will be sealed before being sent to Earth.

Many trials must be passed before one can move forward serenely.

Recognizing fundamental progress in planetary science and space exploration, the program Mars sample return also requires new technical prowess: lander Getting a Sample will be the largest and heaviest (more than two tons, almost twice as heavy as Perseverance) ever sent to Mars. Numerous tests are being carried out with the prototype descent vehicle to examine the smallest characteristics that could jeopardize the landing of the module. Getting a Sample. According to Pavlina Karafillis, an engineer Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) NASA,” the last leg of the journey is very important, because you have to take into account all sorts of landing conditions, such as rocks or sand very soft “.

But landing is only part of the task, because after the samples are loaded into the rocket, the latter will have to take off to reach the orbiter: this will be the first time in history that a spacecraft has taken off from the surface of a planet other than Earth. An already significant problem, the teams in charge of the mission will also have to take into account the low the force of gravity Mars (one-third of Earth’s) and the weight of the rocket, which, combined with its exhaust, could topple it. Although the tests are not yet strictly satisfactory, the engineers responsible for the takeoff are on the right track and are confident that their tests will be successful in the near future.

The mission to return samples from Mars becomes a reality: here’s how it will happen

Article Dorian Shapmeisterpublished October 18, 2021

NASA is preparing to return samples taken from Mars by the Perseverance spacecraft through a mission called Mars sample returnenvisaged since the launch of the rover to the Red Planet in 2020. The space agency has announced that it is working in collaboration with the ESA on a projected return to Earth by 2030.

The return of the Martian rocks is getting clearer! NASA announced the progress of the project Mars sample return (MSR), which should allow samples taken by Perseverance to be removed from the Red Planet to send them to Earth. in Jet Propulsion Laboratorydepartment of NASA that oversees mission mars 2020, indicated that this project is being developed in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA). Several parameters must be considered, such as landing the launcher, retrieving the stones, and returning them by decontaminating the samples.

Ambitious sample return project

The MSR mission was initiated by NASA in 2020 in parallel with the Mars 2020 mission in July of that year. To accomplish this highly technical task, NASA’s budget increased by 7% to $24.8 billion annually; 9% of this increase will be earmarked for the Science Mission Division (science mission director), responsible for design Mars sample return.

3D conceptualization of the MSR mission. © NASA, JPL-Caltech

It will be divided into several parts: Sample Recovery Lander (SRL), a device with a new rover and launch vehicle delivered to Mars during coming decade. The rover will then deploy near Perseverance to pick up tubes of rock samples in its wake. After the samples are stored using the robotic arm, the rover will return to its starting point to deliver the rocks to the launcher. The latter will then take off around 2028 to rendezvous with an orbiter built by ESA and Airbus Defense and Space. Earth return orbiter.

The journey back to Earth is estimated to take three years, with ERO not dropping samples until 2031. Researchers will be busy investigating whether the stones might pose a risk of infection. pollution for terrestrial organisms before moving on to the study of precious materials.

Scientific Interest in “Returning Specimens from Mars”

Mars sample return is not a scientific whim or the only demonstration of space agencies’ technological prowess. The return of rocks collected by Perseverance could allow researchers to learn more about the history of Mars and a possible traces of its habitationwhen there was water on the surface of the Red Planet about 3 billion years ago.

While the multitude of instruments equipped on Perseverance already make it possible to study the geological components of Mars, the technological instruments used on Earth, such as microscopes or even spectroscopes will allow scientists to delve into the details of this study to determine whether life could be on the surface of Mars one day. In anticipation of the launch of missions that will take place until 2030, the three rovers Curiosity, Perseverance and Zhurong keep exploring the Red Planet to learn more about its history.

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