Monday, 22 July, 2019

Airbus to build rover for Mars Sample Return mission

Airbus tapped to design Fetch Mars rover Airbus to design new Mars rover
Sandy Nunez | 11 July, 2018, 20:18

"This remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever, demonstrates Britain's world-leading scientific and engineering innovation".

ESA has now awarded the initial £3.9 million (US$5.2 million) contract to design the new Fetch rover to Airbus, which will undertake the study in Stevenage, England.

After launching to Mars in 2026, the Mars Sample Fetch Rover will retrieve Mars samples left by the Mars2020 rover. The fetch rover must be able to detect the sample tubes from a distance, drive to the sample location autonomously, pick them up using its robotic arm and then keep those samples in its storage unit. The deal is worth £3.9 million, which is over $5.1 million United States dollars, and follows on the heels of the Mars 2020 mission which will include another rover built by the same company. "Firstly to understand why Mars, although it is the planet that is most similar to Earth, took a very different evolutionary path than Earth and secondly to fully comprehend the Martian environment in order to allow humans to one day work and live on the Red Planet", he said. The Mars Ascent Vehicle will then launch from the surface and put the sample container into orbit about Mars. The goal is to have machines on Mars by the end of the next decade collecting samples and sending them back to Earth. The objective of the container is to make sure that the samples not only survive, but that the samples will neither be contaminated by Earth microbes or the Earth by any microbes it might contain. The team is already working on the ExoMars rover, which will reach Mars in 2021.

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Landing a rover on Mars is a hard task, but it pales in comparison to the incredible challenge of sending material from the planet back to Earth.

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.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover is going to dig up soil samples and store them in more than 30 tubes which will be dropped at various points.