Plans are being made by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA to return the initial samples of Mars rock and fractured rock/dust to Earth for in-depth analysis. This global interplanetary relay team’s initial leg is the Mars Perseverance rover. Its responsibility is to gather and store samples on Mars. Two Mars Sample Return expeditions are scheduled to go in the general direction of Jezero Crater after Perseverance.
The first is going to land close or in Jezero, gather the sample cache, and afterwards launch it off the Red Planet. The second would catch it in Mars orbit and return it to Earth in the early to mid-2020s in a safe and secure manner. The new timeline calls for the launch of the ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter in 2027 and the sample return to Earth in the year 2033. The Tianwen-3 mission from China will have two different setups: a lander and an ascent vehicle, as well as an orbiter and a return module. Separate launches of the combinations will occur on Long March 3B and Long March 5 rockets, respectively.
According to earlier mission reports, just one future Long March 9 super heavy-lift rocket would be used. The mission will expand on the Mars entry, descent, and landing technologies and procedures proven by Tianwen-1 in May 2021 as well as the regolith sampling, high-velocity atmospheric reentry success, and automated lunar orbit rendezvous and docking, attained by the 2020 Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission.
The mission profile was given by Sun during a deep space exploration technology forum, which was a component of a seminar series honoring Nanjing University’s 120th anniversary. Mars would be reached sometime in September 2029. Surface sampling, drilling, and mobile intelligent sampling—possibly utilizing a four-legged robot—will all be used as sampling approaches.
The presentation states that the ascension vehicle must attain a speed of 4.5 kilometers per second in two phases while using either solid or liquid propulsion.
The spacecraft will leave Mars orbit in late October 2030 in preparation for its rendezvous and docking with the awaiting orbiter, which will take place in July 2031. In order to prepare for the sample return mission, Sun noted that the Tianwen-1 orbiter will execute an aerobraking test in Mars orbit later this year.
Some of the biggest obstacles to the mission are the intricacy of the technology and the demands for autonomy. Another important detail is that the mission’s expected landing in the northern hemisphere would occur around the autumnal equinox. Potential sand storms and a lack of solar energy are two related challenges.
The top space and government agencies appear to be supporting China’s Mars sample return project. The nation’s desire to complete the ground-breaking mission has previously been expressed, and it is outlined in the China National Space Administration’s development plans for the years 2021–2025.