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UK Will Take Part in Mars Surface Sample Return Mission

The Projects are expected to be launched to Mars by 2026

By CBR Staff Writer

The UK Space Industry will be part of the first mission to bring back materials from another planet.

The European Space Industry (ESA) has awarded two contracts to Airbus, one is to build a Sample Fetch Rover and a second to design an Earth Return Rover.

Aspects of the design and creation of the rovers will be undertaken at Airbus’ defence and space research facility in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Commenting in the announcement, Science Minister Sam Gyimah said: “One rover bound for Mars in 2020 is already under construction by Airbus in Stevenage and the knowledge and expertise honed there will now be applied to designing this new mission, which aims to safely deliver – for the first time – material to Earth from another planet.”

In an emailed statement to Computer Business Review, Sample Fetch Rover Project Manager Ben Boyes said: “With the combined expertise of ESA and NASA, this landmark mission is ambitious and technologically very advanced, with two rovers interacting together on Mars for the first time.”

While David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA commented: “I am very pleased that we see the next concrete step in devising a mission that brings samples from Mars to Earth happening now.

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“This is very much due to the strong willingness and continuous support of ESA member states to position Europe as a key player in the international exploration of Mars.”

The Mission

In two years NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will be launched, the 2020 rover is modelled after the Curiosity rover which is currently on the surface of Mars, but will contain a different scientific payload.

Part of the Mars 2020 rovers mission will be to collect surface samples and deposited them in a location for later collection.

The Mars Sample Fetch Rover expected to launch in 2026 will drop onto the surface of Mars, collect the samples and then re-establish an orbit around the planet.

The third section of the mission then involves Airbus’s second space craft the Earth Return Orbiter, collecting the sample from Mar’s orbit and bringing it home.

Patrick Lelong, Project Manager by Airbus for the Earth Return Orbiter study commented in an Airbus blog:

“Our long experience in complex scientific exploration missions such as Rosetta, BepiColombo and Mars Express will be a great asset for this study. The mission is technologically very challenging, but the prospect of seeing a sample of Mars returning to Earth is very exciting.”

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