First-Ever Rocket Launch from Mars? NASA and ESA Working to Bring Martian Soil Back To Earth
NASA and the European Space Agency are working together to explore options for missions that could take the next steps to bring samples back from Mars. This will require at least three missions from Earth, and one never-been-done-before rocket launch from Mars. A first mission, NASA's 2020 Mars Rover, is set to collect surface samples in pen-sized canisters. In the same period, ESA's ExoMars rover, which is also set to land on Mars in 2021, will be drilling below the surface to search for evidence of life. A second mission with a small fetch rover would land nearby and retrieve the samples in a search-and-rescue operation. This rover would bring the samples back to its lander and place them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle - a small rocket to launch the football-sized container into Mars orbit. A third launch from Earth would provide a spacecraft sent to orbit Mars and rendezvous with the sample containers.