By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Author
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is launching two extra mini helicopters to Mars in its effort to return Martian rocks and soil samples to Earth.
Below the plan introduced Wednesday, NASA’s Perseverance rover will do double obligation and transport the cache to the rocket that may launch them off the crimson planet a decade from now.
Perseverance already has gathered 11 samples with extra rock drilling deliberate. The newest pattern, a sedimentary rock, holds the best promise of containing attainable proof of historic Martian life, stated Arizona State College’s Meenakshi Wadhwa, chief scientist for the retrieval effort.
There’s “a range of supplies already within the bag, so to talk, and actually excited concerning the potential for bringing these again,” she stated.
If Perseverance breaks down, the 2 helicopters being constructed and launched later this decade would load the samples onto the rocket as a substitute.
The helicopters will likely be modeled after NASA’s profitable Ingenuity, which has made 29 flights since arriving with Perseverance at Mars early final yr. The chopper weighs simply 4 kilos (1.8 kilograms). The brand new variations would have wheels and grappling arms.
NASA officers stated Perseverance’s spectacular efficiency at Mars prompted them to ditch their plan to launch a separate fetch rover.
Jeff Gramling, director of NASA’s Mars pattern return program, stated the revised path ahead is less complicated. Every helicopter will likely be designed to raise one pattern tube at a time, making a number of journeys forwards and backwards.
“We’ve got confidence that we are able to depend on Perseverance to carry the samples again and we’ve added the helicopters as a backup means,” Gramling stated.
NASA is collaborating with the European House Company on the retrieval mission. If all goes as deliberate, as many as 30 samples would blast off from Mars in 2031 and arrive at Earth in 2033. Lab evaluation is required to see whether or not any pattern holds indicators of microbial life which will have existed on Mars billions of years in the past when water flowed on the planet.
As for the grounded ExoMars rover, it can’t be refashioned to assist retrieve these samples, stated David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration for ESA. It was returned to storage after Russia and Europe minimize ties with the venture due to the conflict in Ukraine. Russia was supposed to offer the rocket journey.
A choice on when the rover nonetheless can launch to Mars later this decade will not come till late fall, Parker stated.
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