NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are currently devising a plan to safely transport extraterrestrial cargo back to Earth.
NASA's Perseverance rover is collecting samples from the surface of Mars, and these samples will be stored on the rover until they are required to be transported back to Earth for analysis. This transportation process is no small feat and will require high levels of precision to pull off correctly and safely. The samples will be placed into sterilization storage containers that are sealed, preventing any contamination. The process of getting the samples back on Earth is a long one and will require several things to align correctly.
Perseverance is currently carrying Mars' samples, and when the time comes to send them back to Earth, the Mars rover will hand them over to a fetch rover that engineers are currently developing at NASA. This rover will then transport the samples to a lander that has a robotic arm that will place the samples into the head of a rocket. The rocket will then launch from the surface of Mars and transport the samples to an ESA orbiter that will prepare the samples for transportation back to Earth.
This process has several problems that engineers in all departments working on the campaign will have to overcome. One major problem is the sterilization process that will occur when the ESA orbiter catches the samples from the rocket.
Brendan Feehan, a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center systems engineer for the system that will capture, contain, and deliver the samples to Earth aboard ESA's orbiter, said, "Among our biggest technical challenges right now is that inches away from metal that's melting at about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 538 degrees Celsius) we have to keep these extraordinary Mars samples below the hottest temperature they might have experienced on Mars, which is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius)."
Adding, "Initial results from the testing of our brazing solution have affirmed that we're on the right path."
For more information on this whole transportation process, check out this link here.
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