The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, for its acronym in English) will send two more mini-helicopters to Mars in its effort to bring Martian rocks to Earth and examine them, following the success of the Ingenuity helicopter.
As announced Wednesday, NASA has evaluated and refined the architecture of the Mars exploration program, with the goal of reducing the complexity of future missions and increasing the probability of success.
This is how it plans to return the samples taken by the Perseverance rover from the surface of Mars, and for this they will also rely on two helicopters.
Perseverance, a robot that explored a Martian area on Mars called Jazero, has already collected 11 samples with more rock drilling planned. The most recent sample, a sedimentary rock, holds the most promise for containing possible evidence of ancient Martian life, said Meenakshi Wadhwa of Arizona State University, lead scientist for the recovery effort.
In his opinion, there is already a “diversity of materials in the bag, so to speak, and I am really excited about the potential to bring them back,” he reviewed. AP.
If Perseverance fails, the two helicopters being built and launched later this decade would load the samples onto the rocket.
The helicopters will be modeled after NASA's successful Ingenuity, which has made 29 flights since Perseverance landed on Mars early last year.
The helicopter weighs just 1,8 kilograms and new versions would have wheels and grab arms.
NASA, who recently announced that in August a flight to the moon, argued that Perseverance's outstanding performance on Mars led them to abandon their plan to launch a separate search rover.
NASA Mars Sample Return Program Manager Jeff Gramling stressed that each helicopter will be designed to lift one sample tube at a time, making multiple round trips.
“We are confident that we can count on Perseverance to recover the samples and have added the helicopters as a backup means,” he said.
NASA is collaborating with the European Space Agency on the recovery mission. If all goes according to plan, they estimate that up to 30 samples will take off from Mars in 2031 and arrive on Earth in 2033.
Laboratory analysis is needed to see if any samples contain signs of microbial life that may have existed on Mars billions of years ago when water flowed on the planet.