Tuesday, 17 July, 2018


Airbus is designing a rover that will retrieve Martian samples

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Kristine Garrett | 11 July, 2018, 20:35

The European Space Agency (ESA) has granted Airbus a $5.2-million contract to design a new Mars rover.

A mission to return samples from Mars isn't of much use if they don't actually return, which is why ESA is working on a new robotic rover to retrieve containers of Martian rock and soil left behind by NASA's Mars 2020 rover. It will be used to deploy a so-called Sample Fetch Rover, a machine Airbus is now working on. The rocket will then rendezvous with a European orbiter, which will bring the samples back to earth.

Airbus is perhaps known best as a manufacturer of civilian airplanes, though the Netherlands-based company has used its aeronautics know-how to expand into the helicopter market and open a Defence and Space division.

ESA have collaborated previously with Airbus on a variety of satellite systems and cargo spacecraft, as well as exploration missions to both Mars and Venus.

The 2020 Rover will move around Mars, drilling holes in various parts of the planet, putting the samples in small tubes and drop them off at set sites. The first will be NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to lift off in July 2020 atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. The goal is to have machines on Mars by the end of the next decade collecting samples and sending them back to Earth.

Clearly it would be a mission of huge firsts for humanity, but the real action will start once the samples show up here on Earth.

Ben Boyes, the Sample Fetch Rover project manager at Airbus described the Martian mission as "ambitious and technologically very advanced", adding that "a$3 double first of launching from the planet's surface and the in-orbit transfer of the samples means it will be possible for the first time to directly study Mars soil in laboratories on Earth".

The Mars 2020 rover's task is to dig and contain the soil sample into 30 tubes and dropping them at various point around the planet.

"Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way".

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