Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

On November 24th Mars is like Earth’s “twin brother” from a planetary science perspective: their formation times, internal structures, and even the environment in their early days are very similar. But over the next few billion years, the brothers parted ways: the earth was vibrant;

Why did Mars suffer such a miserable fate? Has there ever been life on Mars? It’s the mystery that many scientists turn around. Scientists have been hoping to take back samples from Mars and conduct research to uncover the “past life” of Mars and solve these mysteries. Years of brewing, finally is about to implement.

The Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, designed by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), has been finalized: a $7 billion, four-step, sample of about 600 grams from Mars and sent back to Earth, Science reported on Nov. 22.

Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

The European-developed Earth Return Orbiter will track and grab the container containing the sample in orbit. Source: Science Journal

“2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, and the Mars sampling mission is somehow comparable to the Apollo program,” Dr. Zheng Yongchun, a researcher at the National Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and known as “Uncle Mars,” told Science daily. “

The imperative Mars sampling mission

Why a Mars sampling mission?

In the solar system, Mars is the most similar planet to Earth and the only planet with the possibility of large-scale migration, Zheng explained. At present, with the exception of a very small number of Martian meteorites, humans can only use spacecraft for remote sensing and in situ exploration.

Although organic matter has been found in Martian meteorites and methane has been detected in the atmosphere, is there still life on Mars? Has life ever been born on Mars? There are still no answers to these questions. To answer these questions, we can only hope for the study of the Martian sample.

Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

Andrew Coates, a space scientist at University College London, said: “The Mars sampling mission will be one of the most important in space exploration. “

Ministers from the 22 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA) will gather in Seville, Spain, next week to approve the agency’s budget for the next three years, Science reported. ESA director of manned space flight and robotics, David Parker, said he intended to ask for 600 million euros in funding for the first few years of the MSR mission and for the ExoMars rover, which will be launched next year. He is confident that he will do so.

NASA wants msR missions in the Trump administration’s 2021 budget to be submitted to Congress. Michael Meyer, the agency’s Mars exploration scientist, says we now have a large number of scientists and engineers who have developed and operated the rover, and that we have a team of Mars orbiters that are still functioning, providing relay communications, “and everything is there.”

Investment of $7 billion in four steps

Still, brian Muirhead of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MSR’s mission leader, said, “This Mars sampling mission is as complex as sending humans to the moon.” “

Zheng Yongchun introduced that the Mars sampling return mission is very complex, to be divided into sampling, sampling, handover, return four steps. Currently, U.S. technology for landing on Mars is already basically mature, and next year’s Mars rover will take samples of Martian rock and soil and wrap them in sample tubes, while another rover to be launched in 2028 will collect those samples scattered on the surface of Mars, encased in a sealed sphere, a long-running mission. It’s not easy, too.

Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

Zheng Yongchun continued: “It is particularly difficult for the Mars sample return mission to automatically launch a rocket into mars and interact with the orbiter.” These missions are highly risky technologies when there is someone on Earth, and it is more difficult to achieve without the participation of the Martians. “

“It’s not easy to get samples off Mars, it will be the first time a human has launched a rocket from another planet,” said Angie Jackman, head of rocket development and nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “

Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

Mars sample returnmission mission four steps. Source: Science Magazine website

In addition, ESA hopes to use ion thrusters to push the Earth’s return to orbit in order to send the least sample of fuel back to Earth, according to Science. The ion thrusters will use the electrical energy generated by solar panels to drive ions, generating smooth pulses that last for months to propel the spacecraft forward. ESA’s “Beppe Colombo” Mercury probe is using this method to travel to Mercury. Given the low thrust generated by ion propulsion, the trip is expected to take about two years, not about nine months. “Ion propulsion has its drawbacks, but it means we can do this with the technology available in Europe,” said Sanjay Vijdram, head of MSR at the European Space Agency. “

As for the $7 billion cost, Mr Zheng said: “The Apollo moon landings cost more than $20 billion, equivalent to the hundreds of billions of dollars it is now. The Curiosity rover, which is still on mission on Mars, cost $2.6 billion. So, if Mars is to be sampled, $7 billion will be the first in human history, not much. “

Hope to find evidence of the existence of life.

Researchers say it’s hard to predict exactly how the samples will be studied in a decade’s time, but they hope to find signs of past or present life on Mars. Last year, the Curiosity rover discovered two sites rich in organic macromolecules, but it was equipped with instruments that could not tell whether the molecules originated from life or from geological processes.

Maria-Paza Zorzano of the Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid, Spain, was also involved in identifying the scientific priorities of MSR. She said scientists on Earth could analyze carbon isotopes from samples from the same material in the Jezelo crater to determine if they originated in life.

Mars sample return mission finalized at a cost of $7 billion to sample about 600 grams

If no signs of life were found in the sample, scientists wanted to know why. Benjamin Weiss, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, asked, “Is it because Mars is not livable?” Or is it because life hasn’t been born? “

Scientists believe that billions of years ago, as the core cooled, Mars lost its magnetic field, the atmosphere escaped, the surface of Mars became cold and dry, and suffered from strong space radiation “erosion.” By collecting data from different samples and measuring their ancient magnetic fields, and the environment in which they formed, they can verify that the theory is correct and, if true, whether Mars became uninhabitable a long time ago, so that life never began.

The original state of Mars or the destruction of

Humans are really struggling to understand Mars. Curiosity, Insight, and marsrovers, landers and so on, will visit Mars one after another, and “you sing me on mars”, adding a bit of buzz and noise to the desolate and lonely planet.

Zorzano said that as human enthusiasm for exploring Mars grows, the chances of studying the planet’s pristine state are becoming increasingly remote. “If we don’t get involved now, we’ll miss this unique moment,” she said. “

Zheng Yongchun also agreed, he said: “With the increasing interest of countries around the world in Mars exploration, there will be more and more spacecraft landing on Mars.” “

In the 2020 Mars launch window, for example, there will be a mars rover launch edging from the Us, India, the United Arab Emirates, and the ExoMars mars rover, which is part of a partnership between the Us, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe and Russia;

“This is bound to threaten the original state of Mars, and may even bring life on Earth to Mars, ” Zheng said with some concern. If so, it will be difficult to tell whether scientists will find a ‘trace’ of life or life on Mars in the future. “

Mars Sampling Mission 4 Steps

1, sampling: The first phase of the MSR mission is nearing completion: NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to launch in July 2020 and will land at the 4 billion-year-old Jezero crater. The Jezelo crater contains well-preserved fossils of ancient river deltas, where rocks hold information about the long and diverse geological history of Mars. The rover can move around, complete scientific experiments, drill small pieces of mud and other rocks that may contain “traces” of ancient life, and collect core samples.

Each sample will contain 20 grams of rock and coarse sand, stored in a tube about the size of a flashlight, and NASA will temporarily store some of the tubes on the surface of Mars;

2, sampling: calendar forward to 2028! At that time, another NASA lander will be carrying a return rocket and a sample mars rover built by ESA to Mars. The lander will launch in 2026 and land on Mars in August 2028.

After that, a sample rover the size of a coffee table will pull out of the lander, looking for sample tubes that were scattered a few years ago. The rover will rely on solar power, so it will have only six months to complete its mission before the sun’s diminishing winter. To do this, it needs to advance 200 meters per day and can navigate automatically.

Once the rover’s sample is successfully returned to the lander, the ESA-made robotic arm removes the sample tube from the frame and places 30 of them in a basketball-sized titanium container that can hold only about 30 samples.

3, handover: The return rocket then launches a container filled with samples into an orbit 300 kilometers from the surface of Mars to “meet” esathat with ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter. The Earth’s return orbiter followed the lander to Mars in order to capture samples of the orbit ingress.

After a smooth “master”, a NASA-built mechanism will place the sample-loaded sphere into an airtight module, which is then sealed and disinfected, which will eventually be placed in a disc-shaped vehicle called the Earth Entry Car, which will then be protected by a shock absorber without a parachute deceleration. Land in the utah desert.

4, return: The sample will return to Earth in 2031, after which it will be placed in an isolation facility, so that it is not contaminated by the Earth’s micro-organisms and so on.

(Originally titled “The U.S. and Europe have a big plan!) Destination: Mars)

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *