Airbus to continue development of Mars sampling vehicle for ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has signed a contract with Airbus Aerospace Defense to continue developing the next phase of the advanced “sample-picking rover”. The study aims to collect rock and soil samples from Mars and send them back to Earth. Meanwhile, NASA is preparing to send the Stouna rover from Cape Canaveral to Mars with an Atlas V launch vehicle.

Airbus to continue development of Mars sampling vehicle for ESA

Imagination (from NASA / Caltech-JPL)

Since Curiosity landed successfully on Mars, human interest in the red planet has grown, and Fortitude will go for the first time to collect rock and soil samples and send them back to Earth.

It is reported that the Perseverance will use a special metal sealing tube to drill samples. Airbus’s new Sample Fetch Rover is scheduled to ride nasa’s interstellar rover in 2026 and land on Mars in 2028.

Airbus to continue development of Mars sampling vehicle for ESA

Infographic of Mars Sample Return Flow (from: ESA)

Fetch is smaller than the Perseverance and comes with only four wheels (instead of six). Airbus says it simplifies the structure and makes it more lightweight without getting stuck in the gravel.

Upon arrival on the surface of Mars, Fetch will travel an average of 200 meters (660 feet) per day and for six months.

Airbus to continue development of Mars sampling vehicle for ESA

Imagination of the sample vehicle (from NASA)

With the help of a computer vision algorithm, the sampler will retrieve the 43 sample tubes left behind by the Perseverance number. The robotic arm can collect up to 36 sample tubes and place them in special tanks.

Following the return process, it will rendezvous with the lander and then remove the sample from the rover via a second robotic arm and transfer it to the return module for lift-off.

Airbus to continue development of Mars sampling vehicle for ESA

The sampling car is about the same size as a Fiat 500 (Picture: ESA)

After launching the sample into Mars orbit, it will be friends with ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter. If all goes well, it will land in Utah in 2031, bringing samples from Mars officially back to Earth.

It is reported that the sampling vehicle project began in July 2018 in Stevenage. At that time, Airbus developed a robotic arm based on a specific algorithm-based captureable sample tube. As the rover’s range of exploration expands, its powersystems will continue to improve in the future.