Author Topic: NASA/ESA - Mars Sample Return mission's Earth Return Orbiter (ERO)  (Read 3297 times)

Mars Earth Return Orbiter
Bringing samples from Mars is the logical next step for robotic exploration and it will require multiple missions that will be more challenging and more advanced than any robotic missions before. Accomplishments in robotic exploration in recent years have increased confidence in success – multiple launches will be necessary to deliver samples from Mars.

ESA is working with NASA to explore mission concepts for an international Mars Sample Return campaign between 2020 and 2030.

Three launches will be necessary to accomplish landing, collecting, storing and finding samples and delivering them to Earth.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will explore the surface and rigorously document and store a set of samples in canisters in strategic areas to be retrieved later for flight to Earth.

Two subsequent missions are foreseen to achieve this next step.

A NASA launch will send the Sample Retrieval Lander mission to land a platform near the Mars 2020 site. From here, a small ESA rover – the Sample Fetch Rover – will head out to retrieve the cached samples.

Once it has collected them in what can be likened to an interplanetary treasure hunt, it will return to the lander platform and load them into a single large canister on the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). This vehicle will perform the first liftoff from Mars and carry the container into Mars orbit.

ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter will be the next mission, timed to capture the basketball-size sample container orbiting Mars. The samples will be sealed in a biocontainment system to prevent contaminating Earth with unsterilised material before being moved into an Earth entry capsule.

The spacecraft will then return to Earth, where it will release the entry capsule for the samples to end up in a specialised handling facility.

ESA and NASA are exploring the concepts for these missions, with ESA assessing the Sample Fetch Rover and Earth Return Orbiter. These will provide input to ESA’s 2019 council at ministerial level, where approval will be sought for the missions.

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Human Spaceflight Space Science
Mars Sample Return

Offline Targeteer

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The Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) is a mission of firsts. The European orbiter would be:

    The first interplanetary spacecraft to make a full round-trip from Earth to Mars.
    The first spacecraft to rendezvous and capture an object in orbit around another planet.
    The biggest spacecraft to orbit the Red Planet so far.

ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter is one of three flight missions making up the Mars Sample Return campaign to bring martian rock, soil and atmospheric samples back to Earth.

In addition to the rendezvous and return mission, ERO would provide critical Mars-Earth communications coverage for the NASA’s Perseverance rover and the Sample Retrieval Lander to deliver the martian samples.

Just as the Apollo Moon samples have powered research for decades, the scientific community would have pristine samples from Mars to study for years to come.

ERO’s round-trip to the Red Planet, as well as its rendezvous with an object launched from the martian surface, paves the way for crewed missions to Mars.

Mission overview at a glance

The ERO mission comprises several mission phases with many technical firsts and in synch with the other elements of the Mars Sample Return campaign.

1.     The European spacecraft flies to Mars using the most powerful electric propulsion so far for an interplanetary mission.

2.     The Earth Return Orbiter captures a basketball-sized capsule launched from the surface of Mars and filled with a set of samples previously collected by Perseverance.

3.     European teams orchestrate the catch in Mars orbit from 50 million km away with the help of ESA and NASA navigation teams.

4.     The capsule is safely sealed into NASA’s Earth Entry System to ensure that the precious samples reach Earth’s surface intact for maximum scientific return.

5.     Three years after reaching Mars, ERO spends two years to change its orbit and make its way back to Earth.

6.     Three days away from Earth, ERO releases the reentry system and places it on a precision trajectory for landing on a predetermined location in our planet.

7.     ERO performs a series of maneouvres to enter orbit around the Sun, never to return to Earth.

8.    The martian samples are transported to a specialised curation facility, where they are analysed by top scientists and laboratories from around the world.
Earth Return Orbiter releases capsule with martian samples
Earth Return Orbiter releases capsule with martian samples
5 things to know

    First round-trip mission to another planet. It would take ERO about two years to reach operational orbit around Mars, one year to do its Mars mission and another two years to leave Mars and return to Earth.
    First spacecraft to capture a man-made object launched from another planet. ERO would demonstrate the first in-orbit rendezvous at Mars.
    Biggest spacecraft to ever orbit Mars. The seven-ton, seven-metre tall spacecraft, is equipped with 144 m˛ of solar arrays with a span of nearly 40 metres – the largest ever built for interplanetary flight.
    Powerful, hybrid propulsion. The electric propulsion system would be the most powerful ever flown for an interplanetary mission. While ERO would use chemical propulsion to enter Mars orbit, it would rely on solar electric propulsion for the cruise to and from Mars, and for placing itself on an operational orbit.
    Radiation monitor. ERO would measure the total radiation dose received throughout the entire flight. Results would help monitor the health of the spacecraft and provide important information on how to protect human explorers in future trips to Mars.

Quick facts

    Main job: Find and capture a sample capsule in Mars orbit and return it to Earth
    Launch date: No earlier than 2027
    Launch vehicle: Ariane 64
    Launch site: Kourou, French Guiana
    Arrival to Mars: 2029
    Arrival to Mars operational orbit: 2030, 325 km above Mars surface

Tech specs
Entry capsule towards Earth
Entry capsule towards Earth

    Wingspan: 38 m
    Height: 7.5 m
    Solar arrays: 144m˛ 
    Mass: 7 tonnes
    Propulsion System: Hybrid – electric and chemical propulsion

About Mars Sample Return

Returning samples to Earth from Mars is expected to be the most complex robotic space flight campaign ever attempted. The NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return Campaign promises to revolutionise humanity’s understanding of Mars by bringing scientifically selected samples to Earth for study using the most sophisticated instruments around the world. The campaign would fulfill a solar system exploration goal, a high priority since the 1970s and in the last three National Academy of Sciences Planetary Decadal Surveys.

This strategic NASA and ESA partnership would be the first mission to return scientifically selected samples from another planet and the first launch from the surface of another planet. The samples collected by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover during its exploration of an ancient lakebed are thought to present the best opportunity to reveal clues about the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for past life. By better understanding the history of Mars, we would improve our understanding of all rocky planets in the solar system, including Earth.

« Last Edit: 04/08/2023 03:16 am by Targeteer »
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There was a comment about this at MEPAG earlier this week that they are simplifying the transfer arm to move samples into the orbiter. In the previous animation it was shown as an arm. That is complicated. Apparently the new version is more of a gantry device, fewer moving parts, straighter path.


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