A new report from Newsmax has revealed that NASA is planning to launch two more mini helicopters to the planet Mars as part of a mission to return Martian rocks and soil samples back to Earth.
The plan, which was announced by NASA on Wednesday, the Perseverance rover will pull double duty and transport the cache to the rocket that will launch them off Mars in 10 years from now.
“Perseverance already has gathered 11 samples with more rock drilling planned. The most recent sample, a sedimentary rock, holds the greatest promise of containing possible evidence of ancient Martian life, said Arizona State University’s Meenakshi Wadhwa, chief scientist for the retrieval effort,” Newsmax reported concerning the mission.
Check out more info from the Newsmax report:
There’s “a diversity of materials already in the bag, so to speak, and really excited about the potential for bringing these back,” she said.
If Perseverance breaks down, the two helicopters being built and launched later this decade would load the samples onto the rocket instead.
The helicopters will be modeled after NASA’s successful Ingenuity, which has made 29 flights since arriving with Perseverance at Mars early last year. The chopper weighs just 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms). The new versions would have wheels and grappling arms.
NASA officials said Perseverance’s impressive performance at Mars prompted them to ditch their plan to launch a separate fetch rover.
The manager of NASA’s Mars sample return program, Jeff Gramling, went on to say the revised path moving forward is actually simpler. Each of the choppers has been designed to lift one sample tube at a time, so it will make multiple trips to retrieve the rocks.
"*" indicates required fields
“We have confidence that we can count on Perseverance to bring the samples back and we’ve added the helicopters as a backup means,” Gramling stated.
NASA is working with the European Space Agency for the retrieval mission. If everything goes according to the plan — which how often does that really happen in these sort of situations? — we could end up bringing back a total of 30 samples from Mars in 2031, which would then arrive on planet Earth two years later in 2033.
The lab who receives the samples will analyze them for signs of life that might have existed on the red plant billions of years ago when there was plenty of water to support complex ecosystems.