The launch of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, organized by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to bring rock samples taken from Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover to Earth, has been postponed from 2026 to 2028. The reason is a change in the program for safety reasons. : Instead of launching a single landing craft with all the mission-critical vehicles on board, two deliveries were planned to reduce the risk of failure. This was announced by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, to the Board of the National Academies for Space Studies.
The original program included one launch: NASA’s Lander (Sample Recovery Model), which was to carry both the ESA’s Fetch Rover to collect samples held by Perseverance, and NASA’s Mars Ascent Vehicle, or Mav, intended to start from the surface of Mars to lay The payload is in orbit around the red planet. The final step is due to the Earth’s return ESA, the rover that in Mars orbit will have to collect the payload and bring it back to Earth.
However, according to Zurbuchen, using a single lander to carry it all, in addition to being more dangerous, would require greater heat shielding, greater thrust during launch due to weight and the use of electric propulsion during the cruise phase. “A separate launch could use the same landing system used by Perseverance and before that by Curiosity – said the foundations at NASA – ‘and avoids greater design complexity.’ So NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to launch the two landers. (first with Mav and second with rover) in 2028, while the ESA Earth Return Orbiter will begin in 2027: a return with the precious cargo is now scheduled for 2033.
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