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Plans for the Mars pattern return are slowly taking shape

WASHINGTON – Neither NASA nor the European Space Agency have yet given formal approval or funding for Mars return sample missions, but both agencies are taking steps to refine the plans for these missions.

Plans discussed at a Mars Science Conference and Working Group meeting last week included two 2026 launches to dispatch spacecraft to retrieve samples collected by NASA's Mars 2020 Rover in 2031 Return to Earth Declaration of Intent in April 2018 to investigate collaboration on a series or "campaign" of Mars sample-return missions following a "lean" sample-return architecture announced by NASA in August 2017. As part of the proposed collaboration, NASA would deploy a Mars lander mission with a rover built in Europe, which will pick up the samples collected by Mars 2020 and place them in a Martian vehicle, a small rocket that will transport them into the Martian orbit. An ESA-built earth recycle orbiter would collect the sample container and return it to earth.

This remains the overall plan, said Jim Watzin, director of the NASA Mars Exploration Program, in a July 26 presentation at a meeting of the Mars Exploration Program (MEPAG) analysis group in Pasadena, California. "We want to summarize this plan and submit it to the decision-making authorities for decision by the end of the 201

9 period," he said.

The plan as it currently exists and presented at the MEPAG meeting demands The first launch this summer would be the NASA lander, followed by the ESA orbiter in the fall. Both would travel unusual trajectories to Mars, and the orbiter would get there in about a year using a solar powered engine, while the lander would take two years to get to Mars.

While the windows are opening for Mars Watzin said that for a few weeks every 26 months, not every opportunity would come into question for the two Mars-pattern return missions. "The requirements for the drive are enormous," he said. "There are some ways in which the energy for a reasonable budget and technology is manageable, and the remainder will require the invention of new things."

If both missions start in 2026, the lander lands near the World War II in 2028 Mars 2020 site and sends out a rover to collect samples Most of these samples will be in tubes left on the ground by the Mars 2020 rover, but Watzin said Mars 2020 has the option of sampling some directly to deliver to the lander, in case something goes wrong, if it still works with the Fetch Rover. "I think we've mastered one of the big worries and made the retrieval of the tubes more robust," he said.

The lander's launcher will then put the sample container into orbit where the orbiter collects it and place it in an in-ground vehicle, then the Mars Orbiter will return to the electric drive Earth back and arrive in 2031. The entry-level vehicle will once again enter a test track in Utah and crash there.

The planned missionary campaign still needs to be officially approved by NASA and ESA Both agencies are on the rise. Watzin said NASA held an acquisition strategy meeting on the July 12, July 12, 2002, Mars recovery test campaign. At the end of the meeting, the Watzin agency approved the budgetary development of NASA's contributions to the mission and continued cooperation with ESA. "It was a very positive, very important milestone goal for us," he said.

The ESA is also pushing ahead with its contributions. It issued a "Call for Proposals" on July 23, a call for proposals to industry to build the orbiter, based on recently completed orbiter design studies. Watzin said the ESA will continue with the call for proposals, although the ESA member states will decide on the financing of the program only at the Space19 + ministerial meeting in late November.

"I'm very proud and impressed with how aggressive and serious ESA is trying to make this happen," he said. They intend to use the time between the present time and the time they wish to receive the Minister's approval for this call, to evaluate the proposals and to be in a good position to make a selection shortly after approval meet and release a contract to continue.

NASA's plans will depend on funding future budget applications. The 2020 budget proposal has earmarked $ 109 million for future Mars missions, mainly for a sample yield that will build on and respond to the $ 50 million required in 2019, and the related budgets, and They are involved in the budgeting process, "he said. He did not state how much he expected from the entire Mars return campaign or NASA contributions.

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