Just like NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) plans to collect samples from Mars, hungry for exploration and research. The ESA is now developing plans for an expedition that will bring to Earth valuable fragments of the Red Planet’s surface. The European Space Agency’s plans will definitely work in partnership with the American space agency. Actually, NASA’s mission to Mars, scheduled to take place in the summer of 2020, the Mars 2020 mission, would perform the actual sample collection.
ESA’s current idea concerns two more take-offs after the Mars 2020 mission. The first launch would be a small prove which will have to drive around and collect samples that Mars 2020 has already excavated, or otherwise picked up and left it in marked places. ESA’s probe will gather the samples into a box and place it into a Mars Ascent Vehicle, sent to Mars when the lander descended. The vehicle will be the first to take off from the Red Planet’s surface and will bring the samples to the Mars Orbiter.
The second take off will be ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter, which would fly to Mars Orbiter to collect the samples, and then take them back to Earth. Even if it sounds simple, the logistics and technical complication of two orbiters peeking around and landing in an alien world, then auspiciously returning to Earth, are quite challenging and would be a success on their own, especially the valuable samples they will be bringing.
ESA Plans To Collect Samples From Mars And Bring Them Back On Earth
As soon as the probe comes back to Earth, there are several concerns. A primary focus point will be whether the planet ever held or is still holding life, and whether or not microbial life can be discovered in the samples. Therefore, comprehending the chemistry, those pieces from the Red Planet have encountered will be crucial to understanding the planet’s past and present.
Both NASA and ESA, the international Council on Space Research (COSPAR) and Japan’s Space Agency (JAXA) as well have agreed to numerous forms of planetary protection. Because there is no knowledge on whether Mars is or was a suitable environment for life, space agencies are devoted to detailed decontamination processes when bringing the samples from other planets. However, decontamination could destroy a few of the materials, since it might mean exposing them to extreme heat, chemicals, or radiation. That’s why researchers are already thinking about what type of verification would have to be done in confined chambers before the sterilization process takes place.
Besides, the simple passing of time could also damage the materials. Thus, analyzing them could break them down, as specific tests demand crumbling rocks to dust, for example. That’s why the order of those tests have to be wisely decided before the process can start.
ESA will announce their intention for sample return expedition this year, in November at the Ministerial Council, also known as Space19+. This is a meeting of ESA’s member states taking place every two or three years to discuss funding and suggestions for the next years.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.