Soil samples from Mars: NASA and ESA do not send a rover, but two helicopters - Bark Sedov
Soil samples from Mars: NASA and ESA do not send a rover, but two helicopters

Soil samples from Mars: NASA and ESA do not send a rover, but two helicopters

Soil samples from Mars: NASA and ESA do not send a rover, but two helicopters

NASA and ESA do not want to send another rover to Mars to collect the soil samples taken by Perseverance. Instead, both space agencies assume that the Mars rover, which has been active for a year and a half, will be able to do it itself. To be on the safe side, two more small helicopters are to be brought to Mars instead for the “Mars Sample Return” mission. The US space agency has now announced that they could collect the containers if necessary. This completely overturned the plan for the complex mission, also based on the experience gained with Perseverance and its companion Ingenuity.

With the ambitious mission, the two space agencies want to bring samples from Mars to Earth for detailed analysis for the first time. The Mars rover Perseverance is already collecting them and is currently carrying them with them. So far, a lander, a rover and a rocket should fly to Mars by the end of the decade. They were to land near Perseverance and collect the samples dropped by the rover and fly to orbit where a spacecraft would pick them up and then bring them to Earth. Because of the successful work of Perseverance and the expected longevity of the rover, this complexity has now been significantly reduced and the chances of success have increased, NASA explains.

Work on the additional rover is now to be stopped, instead Perseverance is to bring the soil samples to the Mars Ascent Vehicle itself. It should continue to fly to Mars in the summer of 2028 and arrive there six months later. Using a robotic arm supplied by ESA, the samples are then to be transported from the rover to the rocket, which is to be launched from Mars again. Two small helicopters are supposed to fly as a kind of backup, which can pick up soil samples if necessary and bring them to the rocket. Only the extremely successful use of Ingenuity made it clear that this is even possible. The robots then also offer another opportunity to explore the environment. They grow slightly larger than Ingenuity. The soil samples are then expected on Earth in 2033.

Perseverance and Ingenuity landed on Mars in February 2021. The rover is to search for traces of possible life in a former delta and is already collecting the rock samples that are to be brought to Earth at the end of the decade. Ingenuity was only intended to prove that powered aircraft could even take off from Mars. He delivered that demonstration with the historic first powered flight on Mars, and after several more flights, NASA decided not to abandon Ingenuity as originally planned. Ingenuity has accompanied the rover ever since. However, he is currently pausing because he cannot absorb enough energy during the day due to the dust storms.


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