Africa-Press – Kenya. WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – NASA is planning to fly the geological rock samples that the Perseverance Rover is collecting on Mars back to Earth on an unmanned spacecraft in 2033, the space agency scientists told a press conference on Wednesday.
“With planned launch dates for the Earth Return Orbiter and Sample Retrieval Lander in fall 2027 and summer 2028 respectively, the samples are expected to arrive on earth on 2033,” Flight Systems Manager for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project Richard Cook said.
The projected launch dates for the Earth Return Orbiter and Sample Retrieval Lander are now expected to be in fall 2027 and summer 2028 and the rock samples now being collected are expected to arrive on Earth in 2033, NASA confirmed in a press release also on Wednesday.
“[The European Space Agency] ESA is continuing at full speed the development of both the Earth Return Orbiter that will make the historic round-trip from Earth to Mars and back again; and the Sample Transfer Arm that will robotically place the sample tubes aboard the Orbiting Sample Container before its launch from the surface of the Red Planet,” ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said.
The Perseverance rover has already sealed 11 samples of rocks from the Jezero Crater, where it is operating into test tubes for eventual transportation back to Earth, NASA planetary scientist Meenakshi Wadhwa told the press conference.