• Wed. May 25th, 2022

NASA awards contract to build vehicle for Mars sample return mission

ByRandall B. Phelps

Feb 8, 2022



A drill left intact by NASA's Perseverance rover on Mars.  The Rover drills rock samples to send back to Earth for analysis.  -NASA


©NASA

A drill left intact by NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The Rover drills rock samples to send back to Earth for analysis.

-NASA

NASA awarded a Contract to the American company Lockheed Martin Space to build the spacecraft that will make the first samples from Martian rock and soil to Earth.

The US space agency announced the award of the $194 million contract on Monday and noted that Lockheed Martin is expected to begin initial work on the March Ascent Vehicle spacecraft by the end of the month. The Mars Ascent Vehicle will collect Mars samples collected by Nasa’s Perseverance rover from the surface of the red planets to be their journey to scientists on Earth as part of the Mars Sample Return Program.

“This groundbreaking endeavor is destined to inspire the world when the first round-trip robotic mission retrieves a sample from another planet,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

The Nasa Perseverance rover has been exploring the Jezero crater on Mars since February 18, 2021. After a few difficulties while drilling into the rocks, the robotic rover managed to drill out some of the samples it will cache to retrieve and return to Earth.

Video: NASA’s TESS mission has already identified thousands of possible alien worlds (cover video)

NASA’s TESS mission has already identified thousands of possible alien worlds

Click to enlarge

FOLLOWING

FOLLOWING

The sample return mission, launching no earlier than 2026, will deliver both the Sample Fetch Rover, which will retrieve cached samples, and the Mars Ascent Vehicle to the Martian surface in the Sample recovery lander. Once loaded with samples, the Mars Ascent Vehicle will launch into orbit around Mars where it will be captured by ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft, which will return the samples to Earth in the mid-2030s.

Robotic missions to Mars have conducted experiments designed to detect signs of life, existing or ancient, from the NASA Viking landers in the 1970s. But as the evidence increasingly points to the possibility that conditions were once conducive to life on marsno experiment so far has shown conclusive evidence that life ever took root on the planet.

The sample return mission will allow scientists to bring all the scientific tools at their disposal to investigate the samples – including the ability to build new tools to suit the task – giving researchers the best chance of determine whether there is, or ever was, life on Mars.

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