A Micromission for Mars Sample Return

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B. Parkinson; S. Kemble (2004), JBIS, 57, 256-261

Refcode: 2004.57.256
Keywords: Microspacecraft, Mars, Moon, sample return

In 1970 the Russian Luna 16 returned just 100 gm of lunar regolith from the Sea of Fertility using a robot spacecraft. Return of 200 gm of surface and sub-surface fines from Mars to Earth for detailed examination would make a major contribution to understanding the geology of that planet. Surface sample return missions have been seen as complex and expensive, demanding a heavy launch vehicle. However, the use of micro- spacecraft technology and a severely focussed mission objective could minimize the size and cost of such a mission. This paper describes an initial feasibility assessment of a minimum Mars Sample Return mission using a Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle and a Mars orbit rendezvous strategy. The vehicle design could also be adapted to perform an earlier Lunar Sample Return (e.g. from the polar Aitken Basin), allowing new operational technolo- gies to be demonstrated and providing additional scientific return.

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