NASA is partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a significant mission. The two space agencies are heading to Mars.
A Letter Of Intent
On Wednesday, April 26, the two space organizations signed a letter of intent that will focus on bringing samples of Martian soil back to Earth. The two groups believe that if they can bring the soil back to the planet, they could begin to start piecing together how the solar system formed. The duo decided that it would take three Earth-based missions to accomplish of their goal. They would also have to face the challenge of launching a rocket from Mars's surface. This task is something that neither science organizations has done.
The Different Earth Missions
In 2020, NASA will launch its Mars Rover from Earth. The machine will be tasked to collect 30 pen-sized canisters of the soil. One year later, the ESA will be sending its ExoMars rover to dig on the Mars surface. The ESA scientists revealed that the ExoMars would be looking to see if anything lived on the Red Planet.
Mission number 2 would focus on using a rover to retrieve the samples that both the Mars Rover and the ExoMars units left behind. Once the rover finds the dirt, it would hand it off to a rocket, which will launch the samples into Martian orbit. The final mission involves that a spacecraft that would pick up the samples from the Martian orbit and head back to Earth. Once it lands back on the planet, the duo agreed that the vehicle will fall in the United States and will allow a team of scientists to analyze the Martian soil.
"It's very important that every mission we send to Mars discovers something slightly unusual. It's on the basis of that we tend to plan the next mission or next missions," said Dave Parker, ESA's director of human and robotic exploration, to BBC News.
Other Space News
As both NASA and the ESA move forward with their plans to retrieve Martian soil, there have been several companies that have set their eyes on outer space. SpaceX will be using its Falcon 9 rocket to transport five of the Iridium Communications, Inc.'s Iridium NEXT satellites into Earth's orbit. It would also be carrying NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences' Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO).
SpaceX also used the Falcon 9 rocket to help NASA launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on April 18. TESS is expected to look for planets that are like Earth. On April 19, NASA also announced that it would start construction of a lunar space station in 2019. Once completed, this lunar space station, called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, would have the ability to act as a go-between platform.
Tech Times reached out to NASA for a comment on this story.