One of the steps that must take place before humans will ever set foot on Mars, is the return of samples from Mars too Earth. In other words a lander, similar to the ones crawling across the red planet’s surface at the moment, must make it to Mars, and then be able to return samples too Earth.
This type of mission took a huge leap forward recently with the publication of a mission design report by the iMARS Working Group. The report lays out the key elements of what such a mission would look like, and included plans for internationally-funded missions involving the ESA, NASA and other national agencies.
iMARS, which stands for the International Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples is a committee of the International Mars Exploration Working Group made up of scientists, engineers, strategic planners, and managers.
The Mars Sample Return mission will likely take place in the timeframe 2020-2022, and return materials that will hopefully increase the knowledge of the properties of Martian soil and help answer questions about the possibility about life – both past, present and future – on Mars.
"Exploration is gaining momentum year by year, as is the experience and knowledge gained by ESA and its international partners in this area" said Bruno Gardini ESA's Exploration Programme Manager in the Directorate of Human Spaceflight and iMARS study leader. "The information we gain from current Mars missions and from the ISS provide a basis not only for future robotic missions but also a stepping stone for the human exploration missions."
The report laid out and outlined a large list of objectives that will need to be met, and equipment needed to meet such goals. Launchers, spacecraft, Mars lander, a rover, and a Mars ascent vehicle are just a few of the pieces of tech that we will have to send, simply to get something to send back. There are still ground processing facilities that will be needed to contain and analyze samples in a protected environment, so that ground controllers can choose what is sent back home.
Posted by Josh Hill.