UK designing new rover to bring first samples back from Mars

Wednesday June 17th, 2020

Airbus UK has won the next phase of the study contract to design the Sample Fetch Rover for the European Space Agency (ESA)design_2103518Sml

The UK space sector has world-leading expertise in robotic space exploration, with Airbus completing the build of the ‘Rosalind Franklin’ rover last year.

This new contract will see UK scientists and engineers working on the next Mars ‘Sample Fetch Rover’ as part of a joint NASA and ESA campaign to collect samples from Mars and return them to Earth.

Airbus in Stevenage is leading the Sample Fetch Rover project and has already completed two preliminary studies, to develop sophisticated algorithms to help the rover spot the samples and a robotic arm to pick them up.

The plan is for the rover to launch in 2026 and land on Mars in 2028. Once there, it will collect up to 36 soil, rock and atmospheric samples left behind by NASA’s 2020 Perseverance rover, before transferring them to a Mars Ascent Vehicle to begin their journey back to Earth for study.

In November 2019, the UK committed £180 million to ESA’s global exploration programme to ensure UK industry plays a leading role in this mission to bring back the first samples from Mars and supports NASA’s ambitions to return humans to the Moon.

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