NASA has sent numerous robotic explorers to Mars over the years, examining samples and conducting interesting geological surveys of the Red Planet. Yet, we can learn much more here, including samples of Mars, to examine the earth in detail. The recently launched Perseverance Rover will lay the groundwork for the return to our planet by collecting samples. NASA has now announced that they will work with the European Space Agency (ESA) to bring these specimens back to Earth, but it will not be cheap.
Perseverance, formerly known as Mars 2020, took a lot from the wildly successful design of the Curiosity rover. When it lands on Mars early next year, perseverance will begin to plague the planet to prove life. Along the way, it will scoop up the planet’s bits and store it in 43 sample tubes inside the rover’s belly. The rover has a 2-meter robotic arm that will be important for most of its work, but the perseverance has a small 0.5-meter arm at the bottom that will help collect the original specimens in the tubes.
The rover will not do any analysis of these samples on the ground – it will check the volume and take pictures of each tube and then it will wait for the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. NASA has announced that MSR has entered the first phase of development during which NASA and ESA will decide on the specific features of the mission.
The current plan calls on NASA to contribute landers and rovers, and the ESA will create an orbit. Following the proposed launch in 2026, the lander will land near the perseverance landing site of Jezero Crater. Its job will be to merge with the old rover on the surface (the first to explore the robot Mars). Depending on the conditions of the 2020 mission, perseverance may even be able to meet the MSR rover half-way.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for MSR missions is getting samples from the surface of Mars. The rover has a small rocket that can release the weak gravity of Mars and meet ESA orbit. Although individual reviews support NASA’s decision to move forward with the mission, some fear that higher costs could hurt other programs. It will cost $ 2.9-3.3 billion to bring 43 of the 43 sample tubes back to Earth for NASA projects. The Independent Review Board says it will be close to ৮ 3.7-4.4 billion. NASA expects the latest astronomy decade survey to be completed in 2022, and this report will no doubt suggest exploration priorities for the next decade. If the budget of MSR is doubled, NASA will not be able to work on the basis of all suggestions.