NASA has released a cinematic animation showing some of the key moments from the upcoming Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission.
The complex uncrewed mission involves multiple spacecraft and is set to launch in 2033.
The MSR mission is linked to the current Perseverance rover mission, which is now exploring the martian surface and gathering samples for the MSR mission to pick up and transport to Earth.
Perseverance made a spectacular landing on Mars in February 2021 and is NASA’s most advanced rover to date. The samples that it gathers will be returned to Earth in the MSR mission and then analyzed in advanced laboratories.
Scientists believe that close examination of the material will help them to determine if microbial life ever existed on the distant planet. If it did, then it could offer clues as to how life developed on our own planet.
“NASA and the European Space Agency are developing plans for one of the most ambitious campaigns ever attempted in space: bringing the first samples of Mars material safely back to Earth for detailed study,” NASA said in comments accompanying its animation.
“Bringing samples of Mars to Earth for future study would happen in several steps with multiple spacecraft, and in some ways, in a synchronized manner. This short animation features key moments of the Mars Sample Return campaign: from landing on Mars and securing the sample tubes to launching them off the surface, and ferrying them back to Earth.”
The video (below) shows engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which oversees Mars missions, working on different aspects of the MSR mission, including developing a system that throws the sample-carrying rocket in the air before its engines ignite to send it toward the waiting satellite orbiting Mars.
As the JPL team continues with its preparatory work on Earth, NASA’s Perseverance rover will also continue with its work, collecting more samples from different places on the red planet ahead of the launch of the ambitious MSR mission.