Mars Sample Return Concept Illustration
This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples of rocks and soil being collected from the Martian surface by NASA's Mars Perseverance rover.
NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are developing concepts for the Mars Sample Return program, designed to retrieve the rock and soil samples Perseverance has collected and stored in sealed tubes. In the future, the samples would be returned to Earth for detailed laboratory analysis.
The current concept envisions delivering a Mars lander near Jezero Crater, where Perseverance (far left) collects samples. A NASA-provided Sample Retrieval Lander (far right) would carry a NASA rocket (the Mars Ascent Vehicle). Perseverance would gather sample tubes it has cached on the Mars surface and transport them to the Sample Retrieval Lander, where they would then be transferred by a Sample Transfer Arm provided by ESA onto the Mars Ascent Vehicle. The arm is based on a human arm, with an elbow, shoulder, and wrist. The Mars Ascent Vehicle would launch a container with the sample tubes inside into orbit. Waiting in Mars orbit would be an ESA-provided Earth Return Obiter, which would rendezvous with and capture the Orbiting Sample Container using a NASA-provided Capture, Containment, and Return System. This system would capture and orient the container, then prepare it for return to Earth inside the Earth Entry System.
Also depicted is one of two Sample Recovery Helicopters NASA will develop to be transported to Mars on the Sample Retrieval Lander, just as the Ingenuity helicopter was carried on the Perseverance rover. The helicopters would serve as backups to Perseverance in transporting sample tubes to the Lander.
For more information, visit: mars.nasa.gov/msr.