22nd of November, 2017
Mars Sample Return is a joint collaborative project of ESA and NASA aimed at bringing to Earth several surface samples from the Red Planet. The mission is considered a major milestone to enable Mars human exploration, because it will allow scientists to better understand the characteristics of Mars and, based on this information, to design the infrastructure that will receive the first astronauts travelling to the Red Planet. In fact, despite the incredible development of robotic exploration technology that enables extensive in-situ investigation, the analyses performed on Earth-based laboratories are still an irreplaceable instrument for the comprehensive study of extra-terrestrial bodies.
- A sample caching rover, to be launched in 2020, which will acquire the samples on the surface and cache them in a defined depot for subsequent collection.
- A surface element launched in 2026 or 2028, containing the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) and a sample fetching rover, which will collect the samples from its depot and return them to the MAV, where they will be stored in the Orbital Sample (OS) element. This spherical OS will be launched by the MAV into a nominally circular orbit above the surface of Mars.
- One or two spacecraft launched in 2024 and 2026 that will rendezvous with the orbital sample element, collect the surface sample and come back to Earth.
Mars Sample Return Ascent Vehicle lifting off from Mars © ESA.
Elecnor Deimos is the prime contractor of the Mars Sample Return Architecture Assessment Study, leading a consortium that counts on the extensive experience in space systems and mechanisms design of Lockheed Martin UK Ampthill (United Kingdom) and MDA Corporation (Canada). The project will be completed in the early 2018 and it will serve as baseline for further detailed studies.