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NASA revises Mars sample return intend to use helicopters

Flying to the rocket

The knowledge with the Ingenuity helicopter has changed the equation.

Image of all the vehicles involved in the planned NASA sample return.

On Wednesday, NASA announced that it had made major changes to its arrange for returning samples from the top of Mars in the first 2030s. Becoming collected by the Perseverance rover, the samples are set to be moved to Earth by way of a relay of rovers and rockets. Now, inspired by the success of the Ingenuity helicopter, NASA says it could lose among the rovers, replacing it with a set of helicopters instead.

The Mars sample return plan involves a big assortment of challenges, but a central one is that the samples are in Perseverance, but eventually need to result in a rocket that will take off from the top of Mars. Which means that Perseverance will need to get close enough to the rocket’s landing sitewhich we can not choose preciselyto exchange the samples, possibly diverting it from scientific objectives. In addition, it can not be too close once the rocket lands because the rocket’s landing and its own associated hardware could pose a risk to the rover and its own samples.

The initial plan included a contingency. Perseverance would approach following the rocket had landed, and the samples will be transferred directly. If that didn’t workout for reasons uknown, another rover delivered to Mars by the ESA would become an intermediary, visiting a niche site where in fact the samples have been cached, retrieving them, and delivering them to the rocket.

In the brand new plan, that second rover has been eliminated. In its place? Two helicopters. These will undoubtedly be delivered within the same payload because the rocket carrying the samples to orbit. Because of this, the brand new plan involves just a single lander (beyond one that delivered Perseverance) that may carry both rocket and the helicopters, significantly lowering the chance of the entire plan.

These helicopters, naturally, depends on the look of Ingenuity, that was delivered to Mars as a test vehicle and significantly outperformed expectations, completing 29 flights over per year. Considering that experience, NASA is confident that helicopters could be made to carry small payloads and potentially complete multiple flights between your return rocket and wherever the samples are locatedeither on Perseverance or at a cache location.

From then on, the program remains exactly the same. The samples will undoubtedly be loaded right into a container positioned on the NASA-designed Mars Ascent Vehicle carrying them to orbit. There, the container will undoubtedly be transferred to the planet earth Return Orbiter, built by ESA, that will get them back again to Earth in 2033, of which point they’ll drop through the atmosphere for retrieval and study.

The next phase will undoubtedly be approval by ESA, and both agencies begins the preliminary design phase, that will handle everything on the various vehicles which will be needed. Meanwhile, Perseverance has recently gathered twelve samples from the top of red planet.

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