AP

NASA to launch 2 more choppers to Mars to help return rocks

Jul 27, 2022, 12:39 PM | Updated: 12:48 pm

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is launching two more mini helicopters to Mars in its effort to return Martian rocks and soil samples to Earth.

Under the plan announced Wednesday, NASA’s Perseverance rover will do double duty and transport the cache to the rocket that will launch them off the red planet a decade from now.

Perseverance already has gathered 11 samples with more rock drilling planned. The most recent sample, a sedimentary rock, holds the greatest promise of containing possible evidence of ancient Martian life, said Arizona State University’s Meenakshi Wadhwa, chief scientist for the retrieval effort.

There’s “a diversity of materials already in the bag, so to speak, and really excited about the potential for bringing these back,” she said.

If Perseverance breaks down, the two helicopters being built and launched later this decade would load the samples onto the rocket instead.

The helicopters will be modeled after NASA’s successful Ingenuity, which has made 29 flights since arriving with Perseverance at Mars early last year. The chopper weighs just 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms). The new versions would have wheels and grappling arms.

NASA officials said Perseverance’s impressive performance at Mars prompted them to ditch their plan to launch a separate fetch rover.

Jeff Gramling, director of NASA’s Mars sample return program, said the revised path forward is simpler. Each helicopter will be designed to lift one sample tube at a time, making multiple trips back and forth.

“We have confidence that we can count on Perseverance to bring the samples back and we’ve added the helicopters as a backup means,” Gramling said.

NASA is collaborating with the European Space Agency on the retrieval mission. If all goes as planned, as many as 30 samples would blast off from Mars in 2031 and arrive at Earth in 2033. Lab analysis is needed to see whether any sample holds signs of microbial life that may have existed on Mars billions of years ago when water flowed on the planet.

As for the grounded ExoMars rover, it cannot be refashioned to help retrieve these samples, said David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration for ESA. It was returned to storage after Russia and Europe cut ties with the project because of the war in Ukraine. Russia was supposed to provide the rocket ride.

A decision on when the rover still can launch to Mars later this decade won’t come until late fall, Parker said.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

21 hours ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

2 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

2 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

4 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

4 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

NASA to launch 2 more choppers to Mars to help return rocks