Sample Retrieval Lander
NASA's Sample Retrieval Lander would touch down on Mars and remain in place to receive a diverse collection of scientifically curated samples of Martian rock already collected and cached by NASA's Perseverance rover.
The lander would be the first ever to bring along a rocket — NASA's Mars Ascent Vehicle — and two helicopters, to help achieve the goal of bringing the samples safely to Earth for study. The Mars Ascent Vehicle would launch off the Red Planet, carrying samples into Mars orbit to meet the Earth Return Orbiter provided by the European Space Agency (ESA). The orbiter would then take the samples the rest of the way to our planet. The two NASA Sample Recovery Helicopters, modified versions of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter that Perseverance brought to Mars, would serve as backups for Perseverance's task of bringing sample tubes to the lander.
In addition, the lander would carry ESA's Sample Transfer Arm to load the sample tubes for return to Earth.
Role in Mars Sample Return Campaign
The Sample Retrieval Lander would play an important role in the safe return of Mars rock and atmosphere samples to Earth, delivering crucial spacecraft and hardware to Mars: the rocket that would launch samples from Mars, the two helicopters, and a robotic arm to transfer the samples into the rocket. Once the samples are on Earth, scientists around the world would examine them using sophisticated instruments too large and complex to send to Mars. The samples would remain available for future generations to study with increasingly advanced technologies. Scientists believe the samples could shed light on whether life has ever existed on Mars.
|Project Name||Sample Retrieval Lander|
|Main Job||Receive samples collected by Perseverance rover and prepare them for return to Earth|
|Launch Date||Planned launch in 2028|
|Samples would arrive on Earth in 2033|
|Landing Site||Near the Perseverance rover's landing site in Jezero Crater|
|Length||About the size of an average two-car garage; tentatively planned to be 25.4 feet wide (~7.7 meters) and 6.9 feet high (2.1 meters) with solar panels deployed|
|Weight||~7,440 pounds on Earth
~2,790 pounds on Mars
|Deck Height||82.7 inches (210 centimeters)|
|Robotic Arm Length||78.7 inches (2 meters) outstretched|
|Power Source||Five solar panels, ~7.2 feet (2.19 meters) in diameter, and a secondary battery to power the lander on the surface of Mars.|
5 Things to Know
Biggest Lander Ever Sent to Mars
The payload mass of the lander is double that of the Perseverance rover (1,241 pounds, or 563 kilograms). The lander's hefty cargo would include a rocket, sample transfer arm, and two helicopters. Each landing leg would be roughly the size of a human adult, with the whole lander standing about as tall as a professional basketball player.
Enabling First Launch from Another Planet
The Sample Retrieval Lander would be the first-ever spacecraft to carry a rocket to another planet and launch it from there. The lander would launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle by "tossing" it upward as high as 14.8 feet (4.5 meters) above the lander — or 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) above the Martian surface. Once aloft, the rocket would ignite and fly off to release the container of sample tubes into a stable orbit around Mars for rendezvous with ESA's Earth Return Orbiter.
First Mars Vehicle to Carry Two Helicopters
These aerial explorers would be based on the Ingenuity Helicopter carried to the Red Planet by the Perseverance rover. They would have wheels added for agility and a small arm to grab one sample tube at a time, in case the helicopters are needed to help retrieve Mars samples left by Perseverance.
The lander needs to be close to the Perseverance rover to facilitate the transfer of Mars samples. It must land within 66 yards (60 meters) of its target site — much closer than previous Mars rovers and landers. The lander would take advantage of an enhanced version of NASA's successful Terrain Relative Navigation that helped land Perseverance safely. The new Enhanced Lander Vision System would, among other improvements, add a second camera, an altimeter, and better capabilities to use propulsion for precision landing.
Interactions with Multiple Vehicles
The lander would interact with the Perseverance rover, the Sample Recovery Helicopters (as needed), and the Mars Ascent Vehicle in order to prepare the sample tubes for launch into orbit around Mars. The task requires many highly accurate robotic arm movements, to be performed by ESA's Sample Transfer Arm.