ESA joins with NASA to help build a Mars courier service for bringing back samples from the red planet

The European space agency plan on getting samples weighing at least 500 gm back from Mars.


The European space agency (ESA) is planning a round trip courier service to Mars.

It is planning on sending an orbiter to the planet to collect samples to see if life ever existed there. The agency is inviting the space industry to build a spacecraft that will carry the orbiter to its destination.

They plan on getting samples weighing at least 500 gm back from Mars. They ware aiming for the Jezero crater that was once thought to be a lake and contains an ancient, preserved river delta. The rocks in this region have preserved information on Mars’ geology.

ESA joins with NASA to help build a Mars courier service for bringing back samples from the red planet

The Martian rover, collector and orbiter

The mission has been named the Earth Return Orbiter. It will carry NASA’s capture and Containment and Return system. The ESA has planned a series of missions that will include three launches from Earth, one from Mars, two rovers, and an autonomous capture system in Mars orbit.

This mission will see the ESA and NASA working hand in hand to explore and retrieve the Martian samples.

An overview of the Mars Orbiter mission. Image credit: ESA

An overview of the Mars Orbiter mission. Image credit: ESA

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will be launched in July 2020 and will collect samples from Mars. It will then store them in tubes and place them on the Martian surface to be collected later on.

ESA wants to build a 'fetch' rover that will go around collecting these samples. The rover could then take them back to a football-sized canister that will be launched via a small rocket – NASA’s Mars Ascent System.

The orbiter will then capture the canister in orbit and get it back to earth, like a courier service, which will take 13 months.

The main challenges to this mission will be to ensure that the orbiter and the canister meet at the same times. Propulsion and power generation is another significant issue.

The orbiter is expected to launch by 2026 from a spaceport in French Guiana.

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