At the beginning of September, the Mars rover Perseverance took the NASA first successful one Rock sample from the Red Planet and sealed them in an airtight titanium test tube. Numerous other samples are to follow. Getting the samples to earth will not be easy, however. the NASA speaks of one of the “most ambitious endeavors in the history of space travel,” which will involve multiple spacecraft, multiple launches and dozens of government agencies.
On Tuesday, the US space agency published a video outlining the process of such a mission in detail:
the Mars-Sample-Return-Mission, on which NASA is working together with the European Space Agency ESA, is highly complex and technically demanding.
- First, a rocket is supposed to bring a spaceship from Earth to Mars.
- The spaceship is supposed to get one out of Mars orbit Lander settle on the surface of Mars.
- The lander in turn becomes one Rover drop off at Mars, who is supposed to collect the sealed samples of the Martian rock.
- After that, a small one rocket shoot the collected samples into orbit of Mars, where they are picked up by one waiting there Orbiter should be caught.
- The orbiter will bring the Martian samples to Earth by removing them from a High security capsule fires.
Contamination must be prevented
NASA has to overcome numerous hurdles. For example, it must be ensured that the samples are securely sealed in a capsule to prevent the rock samples from being contaminated on their way back to earth or from contaminating the earth once they arrive. However, NASA sees only a small risk of bringing “something living” to earth with the samples.
When sealing the samples, a Brazing process are used in which a metal alloy is melted into a liquid that bonds metals together. The Martian samples are only a few centimeters away from the metal that around 540 Degrees Celsius is melted. The Martian samples may not be exposed to a higher temperature than 30 Degrees Celsius. First tests of the soldering solution were promising, a NASA engineer is quoted in a broadcast by the space agency.
The technology could also be used in other NASA missions to transport samples, for example from Jupiter’s moon Europa or from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In any case, NASA engineers still have a lot of work to do before the rock samples, as initially planned Early 2030 years arrive on earth.