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 No compromises: Combining the benefits of 3D printing and casting
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

nachricht Intelligent wheelchairs, predictive prostheses
20.12.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

Im Focus: Stronger evidence for a weaker Atlantic overturning

The Atlantic overturning – one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards – is weaker today than any time before in more than 1000 years. Sea surface temperature data analysis provides new evidence that this major ocean circulation has slowed down by roughly 15 percent since the middle of the 20th century, according to a study published in the highly renowned journal Nature by an international team of scientists. Human-made climate change is a prime suspect for these worrying observations.

“We detected a specific pattern of ocean cooling south of Greenland and unusual warming off the US coast – which is highly characteristic for a slowdown of the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New capabilities at NSLS-II set to advance materials science

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Strong carbon fiber artificial muscles can lift 12,600 times their own weight

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Polymer-graphene nanocarpets to electrify smart fabrics

18.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>