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NASA and ESA are teaming up to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth - and have awarded the first contracts for the groundbreaking mission.
Airbus has won two studies from the European Space Agency (ESA) to design a Sample Fetch Rover and an Earth Return Orbiter.
Elements - Parts - Mission - Samples - Planet
These two elements will be critical parts of a mission to return samples of the planet Mars to Earth before the end of the next decade.
NASA and ESA signed a letter of intent in April 2018 to pursue the Mars Sample Return mission.
Missions - Earth - NASA - Mars - Rover
It will require at least three missions from Earth, beginning with NASA's 2020 Mars Rover, but the final step would involve launching a rocket from the surface of Mars itself – a feat that's never been done before.
'Bringing samples back from Mars is essential in more than one way,' said David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.
Mars - Planet - Earth - Path - Earth
'Firstly to understand why Mars, although it is the planet that is most similar to Earth, took a very different evolutionary path than Earth and secondly to fully comprehend the Martian environment in order to allow humans to one day work and live on the Red Planet.
'I am very pleased that with these two studies now being commissioned and in combination with other studies conducted elsewhere in Europe we make another important step to explore Mars.'
Ben - Boyes - Project - Manager - Airbus
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.
'A double first of launching from the planet's surface and the in-orbit transfer of the samples means it will be possible for the first time to directly study Mars soil in laboratories on...
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