Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy
. Mars Exploration News .

Martian box of delights
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Nov 01, 2013

The container seen here hosts 11 sealable receptacles, including one set aside for a sample of martian air.

This spherical container has been engineered to house the most scientifically valuable cargo imaginable: samples brought back from the Red Planet. Still probably many years in the future and most likely international in nature, a Mars sample-return mission is one of the most challenging space ventures possible for robotic exploration.

A robust, multifunctional sample container is an essential link in the long technical chain necessary to make such a mission successful.

Weighing less than 5 kg, this 23 cm-diameter sphere is designed to keep martian samples in pristine condition at under -10 C throughout their long journey back to Earth.

First, the sample container must be landed on Mars, along with a rover to retrieve a cache of samples carefully selected by a previous mission, according to current mission scenarios.

The container seen here hosts 11 sealable receptacles, including one set aside for a sample of martian air.

Then, once filled, it will be launched back up to Mars orbit. There it will remain for several days until a rendezvous spacecraft captures it. To ease the process of rendezvous, the sample container carries a radio emitter and retroreflectors for close-up laser ranging.

Before being returned to Earth, the container will be enclosed in another larger bio-sealed vessel to ensure perfect containment of any returned martian material. This container will then be returned to Earth for a high-speed entry.

"Because there is the potential, however remote, that the samples contain alien life, we have to comply with strict planetary protection protocols not to bring them into contact with Earth's biosphere," explained Benoit Laine, Head of ESA's Thermal Analysis and Verification section, who oversaw the sample container project.

"In effect, the parachute technology is not reliable enough - which means the container must be able to withstand a crash landing without parachute.

"The mission design therefore does not include any parachute, and the capsule literally falls from Mars onto Earth, decelerated only by the pressure on the heatshield through Earth's atmosphere, and by the impact at landing."

While the sample container is a proof-of-concept design rather than actual mission hardware, it is fully functional and has undergone testing in simulated thermal conditions, including a 400 g shock test.

"This challenging project drew on the expertise of multiple ESA specialists," added Benoit. "It incorporates mechanical systems covering structural, thermal and mechanisms engineering but also communications, antennas and power - it has of course to incorporate a highly reliable battery."

The prime contractor for the project, which was supported through ESA's Aurora programme, was French company Mecano I&D. Activities to prepare for a Mars sample mission continue, including a refinement of the sample container design, coordinated by the future missions preparatory office of ESA's Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration.


Related Links
Space Engineering at ESA
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Indian space head braced for tricky Mars challenge
New Delhi (AFP) Oct 31, 2013
The head of India's space agency warned Thursday of the immense complexity of sending a mission to Mars as the country prepares to send its first interplanetary probe to explore the atmosphere there. "As we can see for Mars there were 51 missions so far the world around and there were 21 successful missions," K. Radhakrishnan told AFP in an interview. "It's a complex mission." The 1.3-to ... read more

Crowdfunded Lunar Spacecraft Reaches Funding Milestone

LADEE Continues To Settle Into Operational Lunar Orbit

NASA's moon landing remembered as a promise of a 'future which never happened'

Russia could build manned lunar base

China providing space training

China launches experimental satellite Shijian-16

China Moon Rover A New Opportunity To Explore Our Nearest Neighbor

Is China Challenging Space Security

Soyuz changes parking spots at space station, making way for new crew

ATV-4: all good missions must come to an end

European cargo freighter undocks from ISS

European cargo freighter to undock from ISS

The Sounds of New Horizons

On the Path to Pluto, 5 AU and Closing

SwRI study finds that Pluto satellites' orbital ballet may hint of long-ago collisions

Archival Hubble Images Reveal Neptune's "Lost" Inner Moon

Cassini Swings Above Saturn to Compose a Portrait

UI Researchers Help Decode New View of Saturn's Moon Titan, Contribute to Cassini Mission

Cassini Gets New Views of Titan's Land of Lakes

The active Sun boosts Titan's outer atmosphere

Astrium delivers microwave radiometer for the Sentinel-3A satellite

Time is ripe for fire detection satellite

Canadian Satellite SCISAT Celebrating 10 Years Of Scientific Measurements

Developing Next Generation K-12 Science Standards

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Comes to Life

Flights of Fancy

NewSpace Business Plan Competition 2013 Winners Announced

NASA Engages the Public to Discover New Uses for Out-of-this-World Technologies

Mystery World Baffles Astronomers

Researchers discover that an exoplanet is Earth-like in mass and size

'Hellish' exoplanet has Earth-like mass: research

Carbon Worlds May be Waterless

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement