NASA has revealed plans to send a small rocket to Mars that will collect Martian samples and ensure they return to Earth.
The US space agency has selected defense contractor Lockheed Martin to build the small rocket.
Lockheed just won a $194 million (£143 million) contract to design the spacecraft.
The rocket will play a role in the larger mission of returning Mars’ pristine rock samples to Earth.
If all goes to plan, Lockheed Martin’s rocket will be the first to be launched from a planet other than Earth.
It’s called the “Mars Vehicle” or MAV.
MAV will select the samples that Nasa Persistence testers are currently collecting.
Some scientists hope that the specimens will provide signs of life or ancient life on the Red Planet.
Studying Mars from afar can only tell us so much, and taking a closer look at samples on Earth could be a breakthrough.
The mission would be complex and would require the rocket to land safely on Mars, make sure all the samples were loaded onto it, and then it would take off again.
Lockheed will begin the project on February 25.
It will take about six years to launch the rocket.
The rocket had to be small enough to fit on the Mars lander but then strong enough to survive on its own after it was ejected from the lander and filled with test pieces.
Nasa wants to call the lander the Sampling Lander, and they will likely need some other type of spacecraft for the complex task.
Nasa and ESA also want to create another router that can help Perseverance collect samples.
The MAV rocket will deliver the prototypes to another spacecraft that ESA is working on.
This larger craft will help bring the specimens back to Earth.
Nasa is hoping the Sampling lander will be on Mars by 2026, but the rest of the work needed for the mission could take longer.
Samples of Mars are not expected to be on Earth until the early 2030s.
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https://www.the-sun.com/tech/4643764/nasa-plan-small-mars-rocket-lockheed-martin/ Inside Nasa’s plan to create a tiny Mars rocket that brings Mars samples back to Earth