Home Science Airbus to Build First Interplanetary Cargo Ship as Part of Mission Mars

Airbus to Build First Interplanetary Cargo Ship as Part of Mission Mars

Airbus will build an interplanetary cargo ship to deliver the rock shipments from Mars to Earth.

European Multinational Aerospace company, Airbus will build the first-ever interplanetary cargo ship to bring back the rock samples from Mars in 2031. Airbus-France’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) satellite will play a primary role in NASA’s latest mission to Mars.

NASA’s Perseverance took lift-off on 30th July 2020 and is expected to descend on the Martian surface in February 2021. For the uninitiated, the Perseverance rover is NASA’s attempt to detect the presence of ancient microbial life on the red planet. Notably, Perseverance does not possess the capability to ascertain the presence of ancient microbial life. However, it can effectively detect and identify the rock samples which on analysis by the scientists can help us come to a conclusion. This makes it necessary for the rock samples to reach the earth and as you might have guessed, the cargo ship is being built for the same reason.

The cargo ship will be a product of the partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency. The rock samples that will be drilled by Perseverance will be blasted into the orbit. These shipments will be packaged in football-sized containers. The container will be attached to the Mars Ascent Vehicle which will, in turn, launch the container into the orbit. ERO will have to steer itself in the orbit to be able to capture the rock shipments.

Dr David Parker, the director of human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA) stated:

This is not just twice as difficult as any typical Mars mission; it’s twice squared – when you think about the complexity involved. [..] And this satellite that Airbus will build – I like to call it ‘the first interplanetary cargo ship’, because that’s what it will be doing. It’s designed to carry cargo between Mars and Earth.

Expected Features of Airbus’s ERO

ESA stated that the project is estimated to cost $1.7 billion. ERO is expected to weigh 6.5 tons and the spacecraft will have a wingspan of more than 137 feet. The satellite will use a combination of chemical and electrical propulsion to reach Mars, orbit it and finally return to Earth with the samples. The “fetch-rover” will also incorporate a powerful ion engine which will receive the energy from the gigantic solar panels.

The spacecraft is expected to launch in 2026 and the rock samples are expected to reach earth in 2031. As difficult as the mission sounds, NASA and ESA have taken on the challenge and are working in full swing. As of now, the first step, that is Perseverance’s launch was successful.

Dirk Hoke, the CEO of Airbus Defence and Space stated:

As a selected prime for the Mars Sample Return’s Earth Return Orbiter, we’re bringing the full force of our experience gained on Rosetta, Mars Express, Venus Express, Gaia, ATV, BepiColombo, and JUICE to ensure this mission succeeds. Bringing samples back to Earth from Mars will be an extraordinary feat, taking interplanetary science to a new level.

When will Perseverance land?

Perseverance is expected to land on the surface of Mars in February 2021.

What are the cost estimates for the entire mission?

The total budget for all the parties will be at least $7 billion.

Muskan Bagrecha
Muskan is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor's in Technology. With a zealous spirit for writing, she finds herself open to the vast realm of learning. She is an avid programmer with a keen interest in technology and science.


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