The United Kingdom has announced a new deal with Airbus that will have it develop a special Mars rover for the European Space Agency (ESA). Once launched in 2026, the fetch rover's lone task will be to retrieve the canisters of samples NASA's Mars 2020 rover leaves behind. It will be used to deploy a so-called Sample Fetch Rover, a machine Airbus is now working on.
NASA and the European Space Agency agreed in April this year to find out if it was possible to bring soil samples from Mars 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. Other projects in-development include a sun-observing satellite (Solar Orbiter) and a near-infrared telescope for observing dark matter.
The job of the preceding Mars 2020 rover will be to drill and dig up soil samples and to place them in more than 30 tubes at various points.
It is in fact three separate missions that all depend on one another.
The rover will be created to collect soil sample canisters left behind by NASA's Mars 2020 rover, and will have to detect these canisters and place them in its storage space after driving to them autonomously. The ship will be captured in Martian orbit by ESA's Earth Return Orbiter and then head home. Presently, NASA operates two rovers on Mars called Opportunity and Curiosity. These two elements will be critical parts of a mission to return samples of the planet Mars to Earth before the end of the next decade.
David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, said: "Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way". The vehicle will then film it when the rocket blasts off, recording the first liftoff from Mars.
Below is a 360-degree rendering of the ExoMars rover, which will be searching for life on subterranean Mars while the Fetch Rover is collecting the 2020 samples.
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