Ben Boyes, Project Manager by Airbus for the Sample Fetch Rover study, said: "With the combined expertise of ESA and NASA, this landmark mission is ambitious and technologically very advanced, with two rovers interacting together on Mars for the first time". The fetch rover is expected to leave for our neighboring planet in 2026. With a budget of $5.2, ESA has approved for Airbus to design a concept of the rover that will be able to collect the Martian soil.
The rover will be created to collect soil sample canisters left behind by NASA's Mars 2020 rover, and will have to detect these canisters and place them in its storage space after driving to them autonomously.
Patrick Lelong, Project Manager by Airbus for the Earth Return Orbiter study, said: "Our long experience in complex scientific exploration missions such as Rosetta, BepiColombo and Mars Express will be a great asset for this study".
For some time now, both NASA and its European counterpart, ESA, are working on setting up a so-called Mars sample-return mission.
The job of the preceding Mars 2020 rover will be to drill and dig up soil samples and to place them in more than 30 tubes at various points. Fetch will also have to plot its route by itself. The vehicle will have to cover large distances using a high degree of autonomy, planning its own path ahead day after day. Then, yet another spacecraft will rendezvous with the ascent vehicle in Mars orbit (again, this has never been done before), transfer the samples (never been done), and then that second spacecraft will depart Mars orbit and come back to Earth (you guessed it, that's obviously never been done either). The first will be NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which is scheduled to lift off in July 2020 atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral.
The rover may take around 150 days to collect all of the canisters left behind by the Mars 2020 rover after that it will have to locate the rocket that delivered it to Mars.
The story is based on a report by the BBC.