First Mars sample expected in 2033, although not as planned.
The Mars Samples Return Program team has optimised the approach for returning Perseverance rover samples to Earth.
NASA will use Perseverance to carry samples instead of a fetch rover. Two Ingenuity-based recovery helicopters are backups.
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“The conceptual design phase is when every facet of a mission plan gets put under a microscope,” says NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen. After reviewing system requirements; the agency made certain changes to minimise mission complexity and boost success rates.
Zurbuchen stated the revisions are due to Perseverance’s recent triumph at Jezero and the Mars helicopter’s excellent performance.
The Mars Samples Return Campaign has begun. Perseverance has gathered 11 rock core samples and 1 atmosphere sample since landing in February 2021. The programme will enter a 12-month preliminary design phase in October; completing technological development and developing engineering prototypes of major mission components.
The ESA Earth Return Orbiter and Mars Sample Retrieval Lander will launch in 2027 and 2028. However, they’ll return samples to Earth in 2033.
In the search for life, scientists are looking beyond Curiosity and Perseverance’s equatorial regions and near surface.
In addition, deep subsurface may be microbially rich. Michael Meyer; lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration and Mars Sample Return programmes in Washington, D.C., believes smaller missions may characterise the subsurface and find prospective drill locations. Large landers could drill.
Charles Edwards Jr., manager of JPL’s Advanced Studies Office; anticipates low-cost “rough” terrain landers with electromagnetic sounders or trace gas “sniffers” to detect methane emissions from biological processes.
Therefore, JPL has been developing lander technology for years. Small High Impact Energy Landing Device (SHIELD) If the idea works; Mars might have dozens of SHIELD landers; each carrying 5 kg of sensors. No landers would need complicated propulsion systems or parachutes to decelerate. Each would use a drag brake to slow to 50 m/s; and a crushable nose cone would absorb contact energy.
Nathan Barba, SHIELD systems engineer at JPL; said the flying system avionics can withstand a 1,500-g hit.
SHIELD has undergone drop tests to demonstrate the concept’s practicality.