The Mars sample is now set to return for 2033

Artist's depiction of NASA's Mars Ascent Rover, a rocket that carries surface samples to an ESA-made spacecraft waiting in Mars orbit.

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Mars Ascent RoverAnd the A rocket carrying surface samples to a spacecraft built by the European Space Agency waiting in Mars orbit.
picture: NASA

Citing unacceptable levels of ‘high stakes’, NASA and European Void an agency Make major adjustments to a very complex future mission that you will try to achieve Martian surface samples on Earth.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, made the announcement March 21 during a Power point The Space Studies Council of the National Academies. The Mars sample return The mission is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency, and it seeks to do something that hasn’t been done before: bring in pieces of Mars. Down to earth for analysis. This project is already underway, as NASA’s Perseverance rover has already collected 10 samples at Jezero Crater on Mars.

Instead of launching a new rover and a climbing vehicle on a single rocket in 2026As the original plan was, NASA and the European Space Agency decided to split them into two separate missions in order to Reduce risks. Space agencies have also pushed the timeline forward, targeting 2028 for two launches and a 2033 return date for Mars samples. An ESA-made orbiter will be launched in 2027. Zurbuchen has not commented on the budget, but the main mission could cost upwards of $4.4 billion.

The mission remains largely unchanged except for these changes. The new rover, upon successful landing, will retrieve the cached samples by Perseverance and then pack them into the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which will arrive separately under the new plan. The Mars Ascent Rover, to be built by Lockheed Martin, will launch the samples into Mars orbit, They will be intercepted by the ESA’s Earth-return vehicle and brought to Earth. The ability of NASA and the European Space Agency to alter mission architecture to such a degree is not a huge deal, as the project is still in its early stages of development with many aspects yet to be confirmed.

An updated look at the future mission.

An updated look at the future mission.
picture: NASA

it’s a Not surprisingly, the plan had to be modified. In November 2020, an independent review board submitted its file Recommendationssaying the launch should be delayed to allow more development time And that space agencies should Divide the sample landing unit into two tasks.

Zurbuchen largely repeated these recommendations during his talk to the Council on Space Studies. according to him Power pointwhile the plan to deliver both components on a single landing craft “breaks the entry, descent and landing (EDL) legacy and is high-risk.”

In fact, a single NASA landing would require a walk in uncharted waters — a risk the space agency is not willing to take. Instead, the landing craft will be divided into two missions and built on the same technology that led to the successful landing of the Perseverance on February 18, 2021. As Zurbuchen said, “One large landing structure requires a wider payload launch vehicle width. To accommodate a wider thermal screen diameter for entry, and capabilities yet to be demonstrated by EDL, and cruise-stage electric propulsion, he explained, while “dual landing engineering builds the success of perseverance and can be completed in the 1920s.”

In its 2020 report, the Independent Review Board said that NASA’s original $3 billion budget was too low and that the cost of returning a Martian sample was too low. It will likely be closer to $3.8 to $4.4 billion. Zurbuchen did not discuss cost during his presentation, so the budget for this task remains open.

Regardless, this mission Taking shape, it promises to be one of the most complex space operations ever tried. But it is worth it. Scientists will be able Close study of samples taken from Jezero Crater And look for possible signs of life, in addition to learNing more about The geology of Mars.

more: New evidence suggests that the speed of sound on Mars is unconventional.

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