The first interplanetary campaign to return humanity samples is currently underway.
The size of a NASA car Perseverance The Mars rover began yesterday (July 30), launching a nearly seven-month voyage to the Red Planet.
Perseverance will look for signs of antiquity Mars life after his landing on the floor in February 2021 Crater Lakewhich hosted the lake and river delta billions of years ago. But the nuclear robot will also collect and memorize at least 20 samples of Red Planet’s rocks and soil for its future return to Earth, so that scientists can examine things in more detail as perseverance can prove itself.
The returned samples have the potential to “change our understanding of origin, development and distribution life on Earth and anywhere else in the solar system, “said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA̵7;s Scientific Missions Directorate, at a preliminary press conference on Tuesday, July 28.
Live updates: NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance mission in real time
more: NASA’s Mars Perseverance to the Red Planet (Photography)
NASA has previously conducted model missions. Apollo astronauts took home £ 842. (382 kilograms) of moon rocks between 1969 and 1972 and the Agency Star mission in January 2006, he returned pieces of comet dust to Earth.
In addition, NASA Mission OSIRIS-REx is preparing to capture samples of the asteroid Benn, which will arrive here in September 2023, if all goes according to plan. And NASA itself is not in the game of returning samples. Japan Hayabusa2 probe in December, it unloads pieces of the asteroid Ryugu, and the original Hayabusa returned the grains of the stone asteroid Itokawa to Earth in 2010.
However, no one has successfully carried out an interplanetary sample return mission and it is not difficult to understand why. Such an effort is incredibly complex, time consuming and expensive, especially if the material coming to Earth can bear signatures extraterrestrial life, (Russia tried in 2011 to send a model return mission called Phobos-Grunt to Phobos on Mars Mars, but a spaceship crashed back to Earth after a launch failure.)
Let’s take a look at the campaign that just launched Perseverance. The nuclear-powered rider captures several dozen carefully selected samples and stores the rare material in sterile test tubes that are stored somewhere in the Jezera crater. (Perseverance may also apply to some of the samples, said members of the mission team.)
The next step, if all goes according to the current (temporary) plan, is with two launches in 2026. One launch will send a NASA-led Sample Retrieval Lander (SRL) mission to Mars and the other will be an Earth Return Orbiter (ERO), assisted by European Space Agency (ESA).
The SRL contains a rocket and a small, ESA-provided “listening rover” that does exactly what its name suggests: look for samples stored in memory and bring them back to landing. The samples are then loaded into a football canister aboard a rocket, which is launched into Martian orbit.
Once there, the rocket deploys a sample container, which the ERO rips out of the cavity and transports back to Earth. As it approaches our planet, ERO will release a canister that will land in the Utah desert in 2031.
Samples of Mars will then be transported to a receiving facility at a location not yet determined, where scientists will begin balancing their newly delivered space treasure.
Much of the original assessment will involve ensuring that material on Mars does not endanger life on Earth. This is not a concern, because the Red Planet was probably habitable in the distant past, and parts of it — subsurface collectors, for example, may still be able to support life as we know it today.
The design of the receiving device will therefore be modeled in laboratories that process and study the most dangerous infectious pathogens on Earth, said Lisa Pratt, NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer.
“Not that we really think there will be anything pathogenic or highly dangerous from Mars,” Pratt told a news conference on July 28. “But we will be very careful.”
The NASA-ESA search plan has yet to be completed; dates or other details may have changed. However, it is unlikely that there will be a major overhaul of the architecture.
related: The Search for Life on Mars (Timeline of Photography)
Better than meteorites
Scientists have been studying pieces of Mars here for decades – the rocks of the Red Planet, which hit Earth after a severe impact when they entered space. One such meteorite on Mars, known as Allan Hills 84001, actually carries what some scientists have interpreted as probable signs of life on the Red Planet. (However, most other researchers consider the evidence to be inconclusive and the debate continues to this day.)
Samples of perseverance will be scientifically better than those previously explored by Red Planet rocks, members of the mission team said.
For starters, meteorites on Mars are hardly original; they endured journeys through two planetary atmospheres and millions of kilometers of deep space, as well as lengthy stays on a chaotic surface in the shape of our planet’s life. But the material selected by Perseverance, the centerpiece of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars Mission 2020, will be hermetically sealed immediately after collection.
In addition, meteorites on Mars are random pieces that are usually volcanic and young. On the other hand, the rocks from Lake Crater are billions of years old and retain a history of potentially habitable environments. And the rover team will choose the most interesting samples from this already promising amount.
“The great thing about perseverance is that instead of choosing nature, we choose which stones to return to Earth, along with our careful documentation of where and why they were collected,” Chris Herd of the University of Alberta in Canada, a scientist from the Mars return area. 2020, she said during a press conference on July 28.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom or Facebook.