NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are solidifying concepts for a Mars sample return mission that would seek to take the samples of Martian rocks and other materials being collected and stored in sealed tubes by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and return the sealed tubes to Earth.
According to the current concept, NASA would deliver a Mars lander in the vicinity of Jezero Crater, where Perseverance (left) will have collected and cached samples. The Sample Retrieval Lander (right) would carry a NASA rocket (the Mars Ascent Vehicle), along with ESA’s Sample Fetch Rover (center) that is roughly the size of the Opportunity Mars rover. The fetch rover would gather the cached samples and carry them back to the lander for transfer to the ascent vehicle; additional samples could also be delivered directly by Perseverance. The ascent vehicle would then launch a special container holding the samples into Mars orbit. ESA would put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars before the ascent vehicle launches. This spacecraft would rendezvous with and capture the orbiting samples before returning them to Earth. NASA would provide the capture and containment payload module for the orbiter.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech
Editor: Yvette Smith