Airbus working on Mars rover to bring soil samples back to Earth

11 July, 2018, 20:19 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Airbus tapped to design Fetch Mars rover

Airbus is already in the process of building another rover bound for Mars (ESA'a ExoMars rover) at its Stevenage base and after securing a contract worth £3.9 million from ESA, the knowledge and expertise mastered in that project will now be applied to designing this new mission, which aims to deliver - for the first time - material to Earth from another planet.

Landing a rover on Mars is a hard task, but it pales in comparison to the incredible challenge of sending material from the planet back to Earth.

Patrick Lelong, Project Manager by Airbus for the Earth Return Orbiter study, said: "Our long experience in complex scientific exploration missions such as Rosetta, BepiColombo and Mars Express will be a great asset for this study". The fetch rover is expected to leave for our neighboring planet in 2026. Its sole goal will be to find and collect the canisters of Martian soil samples that NASA's Mars 2020 rover prepares and leaves behind. Just getting to Mars is still one of the most challenging of space missions, but collecting samples and then returning them to Earth is a quantum leap of complexity.

NASA's Mars 2020 rover is going to dig up soil samples and store them in more than 30 tubes which will be dropped at various points.


The new rover will be designed at Airbus's site in the United Kingdom town of Stevenage, just north of London, and is another boon to the UK's burgeoning space sector, which is now worth an estimated £13.7 billion to the nation's economy. The vehicle will have to cover large distances using a high degree of autonomy, planning its own path ahead day after day. The Mars 2020 rover is on the search for, amongst other things, signs of past microbial life on the martian surface and is set for launch in July/August 2020.

Then, a second NASA launch will send the Sample Return Lander mission to land a platform near the Mars 2020 site.

It could take around 150 days for the fetch rover to retrieve all the canisters left by Mars 2020 rover.

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