NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are solidifying concepts for a sample return mission to Mars that would seek to take Martian rock samples and other materials that NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover collects and stores in sealed tubes and returns the sealed tubes to the Land.
Under the current concept, NASA would deliver a lander on Mars in the vicinity of the jezero crater, where Perseverance (left) will have collected and stored samples. The Sample Retrieval Lander (right) would carry a NASA rocket (the Mars Ascent Vehicle), along with ESA’s Sample Fetch Rover (center) which is roughly the size of the Opportunity Mars rover. .
The search vehicle would collect the cached samples and I’d take them back to the lander to transfer them to the ascent vehicle; Perseverance could also deliver additional samples directly. The ascent vehicle would launch a special container with the samples into the orbit of Mars.
ESA would put a spacecraft into orbit around Mars before the ascent vehicle is launched. This spacecraft would meet the orbiting samples and capture them before returning them to Earth. NASA would provide the capture and containment payload module for the orbiter.