Airbus Mars rover will send samples back to Earth

Airbus tapped to design Fetch Mars rover

To that end, Airbus has been awarded a $5.2 million contract by the European Space Agency to develop a concept for a Mars rover which will be able to collect those samples on Mars.

ESA's rover will then load the samples into a container, which will be launched into orbit and collected by the Earth Return Orbiter. According to the United Kingdom government, this new rover will pick up sample collected by NASA's Mars 2020 rover and then transfer them back to an ascent vehicle.

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The feasibility team at Airbus for this project mentions that it's going to be a relatively small rover that weighs around 130kg but will have to put up with demanding requirements which include covering large distances "using a high degree of autonomy, planning its own path ahead day after day". 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 mission is technologically very challenging, but the prospect of seeing a sample of Mars returning to Earth is very exciting".

Sample Fetch Rover will launch in 2026, tasked with transporting the samples loading them into a basketball-sized container inside the ESA's Mars Ascent Vehicle, which will then launch from the Martian surface to loft the samples into orbit. The company's Autonomous Systems Group will also be contributing to the ESA Mars rover mission. The goal of the container is to make sure that the samples not only survive, but that the samples will neither be contaminated by Earth microbes or the Earth by any microbes it might contain.

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David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, said: "Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way".

Airbus has won the initial contracts to design two prototype vehicles, Sample Fetch Rover and Earth Return Orbiter, which will be designed and developed at its facilities in Stevenage, England. The mission is a part of a collaboration between Nasa and ESA that was announced in April this year.

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