Bruce Murray Space Image Library

Mars sample return concept illustration

Mars sample return concept illustration
Mars sample return concept illustration This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Mars surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are developing concepts for the Mars Sample Return program designed to retrieve the samples of Martian rocks and soil being collected and stored in sealed tubes by Perseverance. In the future, the samples would be returned to Earth for detailed laboratory analysis. One of the current concepts envisions delivering a Mars lander near Jezero Crater, where Perseverance (far left) is caching, or collecting, samples. A NASA-provided Sample Retrieval Lander (far right) would carry a NASA rocket (the Mars Ascent Vehicle), and a second lander, pictured in the background, would carry ESA’s Sample Fetch Rover (center), which is a little smaller than a golf cart. The fetch rover would gather the cached samples left on the surface by Perseverance and transport them to the Sample Retrieval Lander, from which they would then be transferred onto the Mars Ascent Vehicle. Perseverance could also deliver additional samples directly to the lander. The Mars Ascent Vehicle would launch a container with the samples inside into orbit. Waiting in Mars orbit would be an ESA-provided Earth Return Orbiter, which would rendezvous with and capture the orbiting sample container using a NASA-provided Capture, Containment and Return System. This system would capture and orient the container and then prepare it for return to Earth inside the Earth Entry System. NASA/ESA/JPL-CalTech