(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Mars Sample Return Mission (MSR) is getting closer and closer. Perseverance has already prepared the first samples to be sent to Earth. But what happens when they actually hit our planet?
NASA and its partner ESA have published a fact sheet outlining how the first phase of this process will go.
The capsule will land in the middle of the desert in the western United States, at the training ground in Utah.
The site is located in the continental United States, which gives it relatively easy access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment available throughout the country.
NASA will be able to mobilize all of its resources needed to ensure the sample is quarantined to rule out the (admittedly unlikely) possibility of Martian superbugs escaping.
The agency abandoned the idea of landing on water because the capsule could sink into the ocean and tiny bits of Martian soil inside it could be lost in the water.
The landing site must be isolated, which is another advantage of the Utah landfill. The airspace over its territory is limited, since the site is the site of numerous tests of missiles and aircraft.
On the firing range, the capsule will be less likely to cause any damage if something goes wrong.
This is especially important given the landing method chosen for the MSR capsule. Landing will take place without a parachute, only due to aerobraking.
Removing the use of a parachute would greatly simplify the design of the capsule and reduce its weight, which is an important factor given that the capsule will have to return from Mars.
According to NASA’s calculations, the samples should not be damaged upon impact.
NASA has already begun testing using a mock MSR sample delivery capsule. This resulted in a series of 1.3 meters wide craters in the landscape and ejection of material about 15 meters from the crater.
The next step is to plan for the safe transport of the samples to the laboratory where they can be properly examined.
After all, this is the purpose of this mission. So far, this part of the program has not yet been determined.
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