European Space Agency Taps Airbus for Mars Sample Return Mission

11 July, 2018, 20:18 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • An undated Nasa image of Mars

While the 2020 rover design is based on Curiosity, it will collect and deposit samples for the Fetch Rover to retrieve and bring back to Earth, rather than conduct onboard analysis as Curiosity does.

Airbus was awarded the $5.2 million contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to design a concept for a rover that can collect the samples on Mars. The first will be NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which will explore the surface of the planet, pick-up and store a set of samples in canisters placed in strategic areas.

Simultaneously, ESA's ExoMars rover will be drilling below the Martian surface to search for evidence of life, and the ExoMars orbiter now sampling Mars' atmosphere will form a crucial part of the communications infrastructure for the Sample Return mission, for which it will act as a relay satellite. "The mission is technologically very challenging, but the prospect of seeing a sample of Mars returning to Earth is very exciting". "The close collaboration between the United Kingdom and ESA will place Britain at the forefront of innovative missions to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond", said Peake. The company's Autonomous Systems Group will also be contributing to the ESA Mars rover mission. These two elements will be critical parts of a mission to return samples of the planet Mars to Earth before the end of the next decade. "A double first of launching from the planet's surface and the in-orbit transfer of the samples means it will be possible for the first time to directly study Mars soil in laboratories on Earth".

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"One rover bound for Mars in 2020 is already under construction by Airbus in Stevenage and the knowledge and expertise honed there will now be applied to designing this new mission, which aims to safely deliver - for the first time - material to Earth from another planet".

David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, said: "Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way".

The brief came from the European Space Agency (ESA), with the aim of collecting and transporting soil samples left by the planned 2020 Mars rover - also now in construction between ESA and Airbus.

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