In order to bring the samples collected by the Perseverance rover from Mars back to Earth, NASA has a sample return mission under discussion. It was originally expected to send another rover to hand over the Perseverance rover.
However, according to the latest news, NASA canceled the Mars rover plan. Instead, it was decided to send 2 miniature helicopters based on the design of Wit but equipped with 4 cute little wheels. It is expected to launch a new generation of Mars missions in 2033.
Since touching down on Mars’ Jezero crater on February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover is working to collect and properly preserve samples from the crater that may contain past microbial evidence that could reveal whether life exists on Mars, When the NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return Mission in the 2030s sends new partners to bring samples back to Earth, scientists will have the opportunity to study these precious samples with advanced instruments.
Originally, the program intended to launch the SRL lander (Sample Retrieval Lander), Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), sample-grabbing rover, and ERO orbiter in the mid-2020s, but analysis found that a single lander would require Larger heat shield protection may increase the difficulty of the mission, so it was decided to split the SRL lander in two, one to carry the fetch rover and the other to carry the MAV.
However, as the conceptual design phase draws to a close and the system requirements review is completed, in order to reduce the complexity of future missions and increase the likelihood of success, coupled with the astonishing performance of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, NASA decided to cancel fetch Mars in the latest press conference. The design of the vessel was changed to send 2 new micro helicopters to replace the former.
By then, the SRL lander will not only carry the Mars Ascent Vehicle (a rocket launched from the surface of Mars), but will also carry 2 helicopters responsible for sample recovery. The lander will be equipped with 4 additional small wheels, so that it can also drive on the ground like a rover.
Prior to this, ESA is fully developing the Earth Return Orbiter, which is expected to be launched in the mid-2020s. At that time, it will be responsible for connecting the Mars ascent vehicle that took off from the surface of Mars and returning to Earth, and then releasing another vehicle carrying samples to land on Earth.
At present, Perseverance has collected 11 core samples, the latest of which is a fine-grained sedimentary rock, which has a great chance to preserve biological characteristics.