ESA Is Planning a Mission to Return NASA’s Mars Soil Samples Back to Earth


As NASA is working on launching the Mars 2020 rover, the European Space Agency (ESA) has a different goal for this mission. The Mars 2020 rover will scan and photograph the planet, but it will also collect soil samples. This is where ESA plans to chip in and have that soil brought back to Earth.

The “Fetch Rover”

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said that the “remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever, demonstrates Britain’s world-leading scientific and engineering innovation.”

Airbus just received a $5.2 million contract from the ESA to make a design for a rover that will take care of collecting the samples. That rover is now just a hypothetical vehicle that will have to fetch sample containers left behind by the Mars 2020 rover. At the moment, they call it the “fetch rover.”

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will have a drill and a container hardware to allow it to leave over 30 samples in boxes as it travels the planet. Getting the samples to Earth would allow scientists better analyze them with a lot more complex equipment than what is on a rover’s ‘lab.’

The “fetch rover” will be small and might also look more different than the one in the concept image from Airbus. In theory, the current design would make the small rover weigh 130 kilograms, said Airbus’ Ben Boyes.

The rover will need almost 150 days to get all the caches from NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Engineers will have to create a rover that can get the containers autonomously after being guided to the position.

However, after getting the samples, the fetch rover will have to get back to the landing craft and then load the samples inside. The ESA must launch the craft back into space. But it’s all a theory right now because nobody has ever launched anything from Mars’ surface.


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