Engineers complete Mars Sample Return Earth Entry System drop tests: Watch Video

Engineers recently completed a series of Mars Sample Return Earth Entry System (EES) drop tests, which will help bring samples from the Red Planet back to Earth safely and securely.

For the unversed, NASA and the European Space Agency’s Mars Sample Return campaign aims to ferry back rocks and soil back from the surface of Mars collected by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover during its exploration of an ancient river delta on the planet.

During the recent drop tests conducted at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR), a Manufacturing Demonstration Unit (MDU) of one potential design for the EES aeroshell was outfitted with sensors and dropped from a helicopter, from an altitude of 1,200 feet to provide time to reach the intended landing speed.

Video Credit: NASA

“It’s important for the aeroshell to land in a particular orientation and the drop test indicated the full-scale MDU was stable during final descent, landing right on its nose as intended engineers,” said Jim Corliss, MSR EES chief engineer.

As part of the MSR program, NASA’s Sample Retrieval Lander would carry the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) to Mars’ surface, landing near or in Jezero Crater to gather the samples cached by the Perseverance rover. The samples would be returned to the lander, which would serve as the launch platform for the MAV.

Thereafter, the sample container would be captured by an ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft outfitted with NASA’s Capture, Containment, and Return System payload. The spacecraft would bring the samples to Earth safely and securely in the early-to-mid 2030s.

Once the samples reach Earth, scientists will conduct detailed chemical and physical analysis in laboratories around the world to look for signs of past life on Mars.

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