First rock, soil samples from Mars to arrive on Earth in 2033

This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Mars surface by Nasa's Mars Perseverance rover. (Photo: Nasa)

As the Perseverance rover continues to explore the cratered world of Mars, the first samples from the Red Planet will arrive on earth in 2033. Nasa has reassessed its sample return campaign and said that it has refined the architecture to return the scientifically selected samples. As humans push for an extensive voyage beyond Earth’s orbit, Mars is the first destination and while rovers and orbiters explore this unique world, it will be critical to get an in-hand experience to understand what happened on the planet and did life ever exist on it? In a bid to understand science more clearly, rock and soil samples are needed. The Perseverance rover is currently collecting these samples from the Jazero crater and storing them for future missions to retrieve them. “The conceptual design phase is when every facet of a mission plan gets put under a microscope. There are some significant and advantageous changes to the plan, which can be directly attributed to Perseverance’s recent successes at Jezero and the amazing performance of our Mars helicopter,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa said.


The mission will see several robots and helicopters teaming up to gather the samples and lift it off from the surface of the Red Planet, pushing it on a trajectory to Earth. Perseverance will be the primary means of transporting samples to the Sample Retrieval Lander carrying the Mars Ascent Vehicle and ESA’s Sample Transfer Arm.

Initially, Nasa had announced plans to include a Sample Fetch Rover or its associated second lander to collect the soil from Perseverance. Now it has decided to go ahead with two sample recovery helicopters, based on the design of the Ingenuity helicopter that has performed exceptionally well in the Martian environment.

With the conceptual stage complete, scientists and engineers will begin the design phase for the multi-robot mission in October, which will go on for a year. Nasa said that with planned launch dates for the Earth Return Orbiter and Sample Retrieval Lander in fall 2027 and summer 2028, respectively, the samples are expected to arrive on Earth in 2033. Nasa is collaborating with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the sample return campaign. ESA will be responsible for developing the sample transfer arm along with the Earth Return Orbiter.

“ESA is continuing at full speed the development of both the Earth Return Orbiter that will make the historic round-trip from Earth to Mars and back again; and the Sample Transfer Arm that will robotically place the sample tubes aboard the Orbiting Sample Container before its launch from the surface of the Red Planet,” David Parker, ESA director of Human and Robotic Exploration said.

Source: India Today

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