In this article, we are going to talk a bit about the most complicated and, probably, most scientifically rewarding missions on the Red Planet. The recent meeting at the European Space Agency (ESA) came with great news: they have all fully committed to the plans of collecting samples from the surface of Mars and get them to Earth, together with NASA. Official approval for the budget to cover this mission is anticipated for next year.
This mission that does not have a name yet will be done with a series of launches, starting with July 2020, and with the Mars 2020 rover, which is already doing a great job. We are talking about a nuclear powered robotic rover that will get to the Jezero crater in February 2021.
Between 1069 and 1972, six Apollo missions brought bat 380 km of lunar samples. You should know that it’s very hard to get samples from the surface of Mars, and the fact that the distance is huge does not help, either.
There are three separate spacecraft. The first part of the mission will be represented by the Mars 2020 rover. It’s truly a challenge to land anything on Mars, as a matter of fact. The rover will conduct some scientific investigations on its own and will get 38 individual samples of Martian soil, which will then be stored in sealed containers. All of these samples will need to be kept safe until 2026.
The second part of the mission is all about getting the samples back into the orbit. NASA will launch a Mars Sample Retrieval Lander mission, which will then deploy a lander and a European built rover near the Mars 2020 rover, which is quite a challenge, as well.