Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESA’s first step towards Mars Sample Return

12.11.2003


What is the next best thing to humans landing on Mars and exploring the wonders of the Red Planet? The answer: touching, imaging and analysing carefully preserved samples of Martian rock in a state-of-the-art laboratory on Earth.



If all goes according to plan, this is exactly what ESA’s long-term Aurora programme of Solar System exploration will achieve a decade from now, when the first samples of Mars material will be sealed in a special capsule and returned to Earth for analysis.
The first step towards making this great leap in human knowledge a reality was taken at the end of October with the announcement of the winners of competitive contracts for the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, the second Flagship robotic mission to be proposed as part of Aurora.

The parallel contracts for the Phase A studies that will carry out a full mission design iteration for the MSR have been placed with two industrial teams.



One team, headed by Alenia Spazio (Italy), also includes Alcatel (France), Dutch Space (Netherlands), ELV (Italy) and MDR (Canada).

The other team, headed by EADS Astrium (UK), also includes Astrium SAS (France), EADS ST (France), Galileo Avionica (Italy), RAL (UK), SAS (Belgium), SENER (Spain) and Utopia Consultancies (Germany).

“The industrial proposals received were of outstanding quality, reflecting the enthusiasm and the commitment of the industrial teams who prepared them,” said Bruno Gardini, Aurora Project Manager.

Bringing Mars back to Earth

As currently envisaged, the MSR will be a two-stage endeavour. First, a spacecraft that includes a return capsule will be launched in 2011 and inserted into orbit around Mars. Two years later, a second spacecraft carrying a Descent Module and a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) will be launched on a similar trajectory.

During its final approach to Mars, the Descent Module/MAV will be released and make a controlled landing on the pristine planet. A robotic drill will then collect a soil sample from a depth of 11⁄2 to 2 metres and seal it inside a small canister on the ascent vehicle. Other samples of Martian soil and air may also be gathered and stored inside the canister.

Carrying its precious samples, the MAV will lift off from the surface, then rendezvous and dock with the spacecraft in Martian orbit. After receiving the canister loaded with Martian rocks, the spacecraft will return to Earth with the re-entry capsule containing the samples and send it plummeting into the atmosphere.

Slowed by a parachute or inflatable device, the capsule will make a fairly gentle touchdown before recovery teams retrieve the container from the landing site and deliver it to a planetary protection facility where the samples will be removed to await analysis by eager scientists.

The design of the capsule will ensure that the structural integrity of the sample container remains intact, even if the parachute fails to open and a crash landing occurs.

“The Mars Sample Return mission is one of the most challenging missions ever considered by ESA,” said Gardini.

“Not only does it include many new technologies and four or five different spacecraft, but it is also a mission of tremendous scientific importance and the first robotic mission with a similar profile to a possible human expedition to Mars.”

A number of the critical technologies required for the success of this ambitious endeavour have yet to be developed in Europe, e.g. re-entry of spacecraft arriving from at high velocity from deep space.

As a preliminary stage in developing a vehicle capable of bringing back samples from Mars, it was considered necessary to develop this re-entry capability and to demonstrate its maturity as part of the Aurora programme. Feasibility studies for a dedicated Arrow mission, known as the Earth re-entry Vehicle Demonstrator (EVD), were recently announced.

In the same way, testing of the complex rendezvous and docking techniques will be carried out as an experiment on the ExoMars mission, the first Flagship mission of the Aurora programme. The Phase A industrial study contracts for the ExoMars mission began in September.

Bruno Gardini | ESA
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Aurora/SEMQH0XLDMD_0.html

More articles from Process Engineering:

nachricht CeGlaFlex project: wafer-thin, unbreakable and flexible ceramic and glass
25.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht Additive manufacturing, from macro to nano
11.04.2017 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>