Airbus is building the next Mars rover

An undated Nasa image of Mars

The brief came from the European Space Agency (ESA), with the aim of collecting and transporting soil samples left by the planned 2020 Mars rover - also now in construction between ESA and Airbus. The mission is a part of a collaboration between Nasa and ESA that was announced in April this year.

The United Kingdom has announced a new deal with Airbus that will have it develop a special Mars rover for the European Space Agency (ESA).

David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, highlighted the significance of the proposed mission.

The job of the preceding Mars 2020 rover will be to drill and dig up soil samples and to place them in more than 30 tubes at various points.

Simultaneously, ESA's ExoMars rover will be drilling below the Martian surface to search for evidence of life, and the ExoMars orbiter now sampling Mars' atmosphere will form a crucial part of the communications infrastructure for the Sample Return mission, for which it will act as a relay satellite. This fetch rover has one task only that is to collect the canisters left behind by NASA's 2020 Mars rover. The vehicle will then film it when the rocket blasts off, recording the first liftoff from Mars.


"This remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever, demonstrates Britain's world-leading scientific and engineering innovation", says Britain's Science Minister Sam Gyimah.

ESA's rover will then load the samples into a container, which will be launched into orbit and collected by the Earth Return Orbiter.

Clearly it would be a mission of huge firsts for humanity, but the real action will start once the samples show up here on Earth. The team is already working on the ExoMars rover, which will reach Mars in 2021. Winning this contract builds on the UK's world-renowned expertise in space and robotics which the government is supporting through the UK Space Agency and the major investments in our modern Industrial Strategy.

The video below outlines the sample return missions.

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