NASA Plans To Bring Back Mars Rock Samples

In its search for signs of ancient life, the Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars in February 2021, has so far gathered 11 samples. But returning them to Earth for in-depth lab analysis is proving to be a very challenging task. Up until now, NASA had intended to send another rover to Mars in order to collect the samples from Perseverance and transfer them to the Mars Ascent Vehicle, a robotic lander that is outfitted with its own rocket.

The samples would then be launched into orbit and picked up by a European spacecraft. The second “Sample Fetch Rover” has already been abandoned, and Perseverance will now bring the priceless cargo directly to the lander so that it may be removed by a robot arm. However, because NASA always prepares for the unexpected, it has a fallback strategy in case Perseverance becomes immobile. The lander will also have two miniature helicopters on board when it departs Earth in 2028 and lands on Mars in the middle of 2030.

Ingenuity, the helicopter that Perseverance brought along with it and which conducted the first powered flight on an alien world, has flown a total of 29 times. The two new helicopters will have a slight weight increase, wheels so they can travel on the ground as well, and a small arm so they can retrieve the samples. In this case, Perseverance would drop the samples first, the helicopters would pick them up, and they would then be placed adjacent to the ascending vehicle. In 2033, the orbiter would be scheduled to land in the Utah desert.

Leave a Comment