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 Design treatment of advanced metals producing better sculpting
08.03.2019 | Purdue University

nachricht Laser Processes for Multi-Functional Composites
18.02.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

All articles from Process Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Levitating objects with light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique for in-cell distance determination

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar cartography

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>