The mobile robot “Perseverance”, which landed on Mars a year and a half ago, has been able to extract 11 rock samples so far, but bringing them to Earth to study them in detail in search of the possibility of the existence of ancient life forms is a complex task that requires multiple steps.
So far, NASA was planning to send another roaming robot to Mars to transfer the samples collected by “Perseverance” to a lander equipped with a small rocket that will take off the samples to orbit in 2031.
The plan changed, however, as the second rover was abandoned, and the well-performing Perseverance would transfer it directly to the Mars Ascent Vehicle rocket.
Samples will be taken from Perseverance using a robotic arm made by the European Space Agency and placed in the lander as originally planned.
But as a precaution, NASA thought of an alternative solution if the Perseverance craft couldn’t move to carry out the mission.
The lander, which is supposed to take off in the summer of 2028 and reach Mars in the mid-2030s, will carry on its back (in addition to the small rocket and robotic arm) two small helicopters.
The “Ingenuity” helicopter is already on Mars, whose performance has exceeded all expectations, as it has so far carried out 29 sorties, instead of the five that were originally scheduled, according to “AFP”.
The two new helicopters will be slightly heavier, with wheels to enable them to move on the surface as well, and a small arm that allows them to carry samples that can weigh up to 150 grams each.
In this case, Perseverance places the samples on the surface for the two helicopters to carry and, within a few days, places them in front of the lander, to be carried by the robotic arm that can extend two meters and deposited by the small missile.
When the samples are in space, they will be transferred to a pre-positioned orbiter in the vicinity of Mars, and it is scheduled to take off from Earth in 2027. Once the samples are in the spacecraft, the orbiter will head to Earth and land in the Utah desert in 2033.
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