The European Space Agency (ESA) has granted Airbus a £3.9 million contract to design a rover, which will collect Martian soil samples and bring them back to earth safely. The Airbus team is already constructing the ExoMars rover in Stevenage, England that is scheduled to head to the red planet in 2021.
In 2020, NASA will send a rover to Mars, which will search for interesting materials. It will drill and scoop them from the surface and catch them in the canister, which will be dropped at several depot points. Once launched in 2026, the fetch rover’s lone task will be to retrieve the canisters of samples NASA’s Mars 2020 rover leaves behind.
the task is not that simple. The fetch rover must be able to detect the sample tubes from a distance, drive to the sample location autonomously, pick them up using its robotic arm and then keep those samples in its storage unit. Besides, it will have to plot the driving route it’s going to follow every day on its own.
It could take around 150 days for the fetch rover to retrieve all the canisters left by Mars 2020 rover. Its next job will be to find the rocket it landed with and hand off the samples to it. The vehicle will then film it when the rocket blasts off, recording the first liftoff from Mars. The rocket will then rendezvous with a European orbiter, which will bring the samples back to earth. However, this is still a concept and will only happen if the agencies can develop the technologies needed and if their feasibility studies find the mission worth pursuing.