Lockheed Martin chosen by NASA to build a rocket that will bring samples from Mars

  • NASA has chosen Lockheed Martin, a space and defense company, to create a tiny rocket capable of launching from the surface of Mars and bringing samples of the planet’s rocks and other materials. 
  • NASA and ESA partnership become the first who return samples from another planet and it will also become the first launch from the surface of another planet.
  • According to NASA, Lockheed Martin will provide multiple MAV test units and a flying unit based on the deal, and the MAV must be robust enough to resist the harsh Martian environment.

NASA has released a contract to Lockheed Martin Space to develop the rockets. These rockets aim to help to retrieve the samples from mars. Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) was built by a Colorado-based company. These MAVs will be small, lightweight rockets to launch the rock, sediment, and atmospheric samples from the surface of the Red Planet.

The administrator of NASA, Bil Nelson, mentioned in his statement that the groundbreaking endeavor is destined to inspire the world when the first robotic round trip mission retrieves a sample from another planet. This is the significant step that will directly help send the first astronauts to Mars.

The decision is a huge step of a long journey to get the pristine Mars samples back to Earth eventually. Scientists will study those samples, and if the research is prosperous, Lockheed Martin’s Rocket could become the first to launch from another planet.

About the Lockheed Martin Corporation

Lockheed Martin Corporation is a multinational aerospace, defense, information security, and technology company in the United States. In March 1995, it was founded by Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta.

NASA will receive multiple MAV test units and a flight unit from Lockheed Martin. The company will design, develop, test, and evaluate the integrated MAV system and design and construct ground support equipment under the $194 million deal.

Mars Perseverance Rover

Mars Perseverance Rover landed in February last year on the Red Planet. In September, it collected rock samples when exploring an ancient river delta, which is thought to present the best opportunity to explore the early evolution of Mars that also contains the potential for Life.

An operation conducted by Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV)

Unlike most other rockets, fueled immediately before launch, the MAV must first be flown to Mars in a fully loaded state and land safely on the Red Planet.

US Space Agency said that Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) would land the neighboring area of Jezero Center to gather the samples cached by the Mars Perseverance Rover. Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) will be carried to Mars surface aboard NASA’s Simple Retrieval Lander. It is planned to launch in 2026 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Then the samples will be returned to the lander and this lander will serve as the platform to launch the Mars Perseverance Rover along with the sample container. Once it reaches orbit, the sample container is captured by the European Space Agency (ESA) Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft outfitted with NASA’s Capture, Containment, and Return System payload. After that, spacecraft will bring the sample container to Earth safely in the early mids of 2030.

It’ll take a decade to put everything together since there are so many moving components. According to NASA, the Sample Retrieval Lander is expected to land by 2026 at the earliest, and the samples will not arrive on Earth until the early 2030s.

Not only does the MAV need to be able to endure the Martian climate and be compatible with different types of spacecraft, but it also needs to be tiny enough to squeeze within the Sample Retrieval Lander. It’s a difficult task, but Lockheed Martin has a few years to figure it out.

However, pristine Mars samples will be returned to Earth if NASA, ESA, and Lockheed Martin can pull this off. These researches will help scientists get to know whether’ Life exists in other worlds or not.


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