Airbus Reveals Early Design Of Its Mars Rover

An undated Nasa image of Mars

UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah praised "the remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever", and which "demonstrated Britain's world-leading scientific and engineering innovation".

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.

Ben Boyes, who will lead the feasibility team at Airbus, explained that Fetch will be a relatively small rover - about 130 kg - but what is required of it is very demanding. Just getting to Mars is still one of the most challenging of space missions, but collecting samples and then returning them to Earth is a quantum leap of complexity.

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David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, highlighted the significance of the proposed 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.

In 2026, the recovery mission will be launched by Nasa and land a rocket on Mars carrying the Fetch rover. The tubes will be handed off to the rocket which will then blast off and hopefully make its way back to Earth. The samples will re-enter Earth's atmosphere and land in the US before the end of the next decade. NASA and ESA signed a letter of intent in April 2018 to pursue a Mars Sample Return mission. The Airbus team based in Stevenage, England was selected because it's already building the ExoMars rover which is due to head to Mars in 2021. The difference is that where Curiosity does all its analysis using its onboard laboratories, Mars 2020 will collect samples and drop them along the way inside of 36 pen-sized metal containers.

"Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way". Unlike the two rovers NASA now has operating on Mars, Airbus' rover will be able to ship samples back to Earth, giving scientists physical access to soil and rock dust from the Red Planet.

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