The mission is based on the ship, sent from Earth, making a tour of the red planet in order to collect the samples transported by the rocket.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will coordinate different missions to Mars to try to bring samples of the surface of the red planet to Earth, according to an agreement signed by both agencies on Thursday in Berlin.
The two missions already planned for Mars by NASA – Mars Rover, in 2020 – and ESA – ExoMars Rover, in 2021 – would collect samples, which would then be loaded onto a small rocket that would be launched to be in the planet’s orbit with a ship sent from Earth, at a date to be defined.
Representatives of both agencies today signed a declaration of intent at ILA, a key aeronautics trade fair in Berlin, in parallel with a conference on the objectives and possibilities of a possible Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, an initiative that could provide key information on the red planet.
“Reconstructing the history of Mars and answering questions about its past are just two of the areas of discovery that would advance dramatically with such a mission,” ESA Director of Human Exploration and Robotics David Parker said in a statement.
While the associate administrator of NASA’s scientific mission, Thomas Zurbuchen, said he could imagine “many scenarios” in which “the samples” are “critical” to the form of human exploration and described the bet as a first step towards exploring the neighboring planet.
According to the scientists, after analysis of Martian meteorites and several missions to Mars, logical evolution is an operation that collects samples from their surface and sends them to Earth. These materials could be studied on Earth with a series of instruments that, due to their large size or high energy consumption, are technically complex to send to a planet 55 million kilometers away.
The results of the studies of this entire project will be presented to the 2019 ESA Ministerial Council to decide on the further development of the missions. NASA and ESA signed an agreement in 2009 to collaborate on the exploration of Mars – which included the recovery of samples in the next decade – but the project was canceled in 2011 by the US agency after a budgetary adjustment.