back to article Here boy! Making the Sample Fetch Rover that'll collect soil from the Red Planet

Helicopters on Mars have captured the imagination of nerds everywhere, however, an even more ambitious mission to return samples from the Red Planet to Earth is gathering pace. The Register spoke to Paul Meacham, engineering manager for the ExoMars rover, about current and future missions when we both attended the Future Lab …

  1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge


    All that effort and they could just ask SpaceX to spare a few grams of transport capacity.

    On current timelines, they'll be well on their way to building a base on Mars by that time.

    1. Lon24

      Re: Wow

      I think you will find Mr Musk has, on past experience, re-postioned 2031 to a somewhat later date. This will give him time to launch LifeX - a project jointly financed with Murdoch to extend their lives long enough to achieve global domination. Different globes though - blue for Rupert and red for Elon.

      Bezos gets the moon as the booby prize. As for the bearded one ...

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Wow

      I must admit, looking at the timelines for ExoMars, it did make me wonder if Musk just might get his first Mars Starship there and back before ExoMars mission completes.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    I find it surprising that they have not implemented a pump to store Mars atmosphere and a spigot to spray the solar panels with.

    I'm far from a NASA engineer, so i'm guessing somebody did think of it and the decision was that it was too costly for the energy budget, because frankly I fail to see any other reason.

    1. My-Handle

      Re: Dust

      These things always come down to a question of weight. Each and every dust-prevention system means more weight. More weight means a bigger chassis, wheels, motors and more electricity (batteries, panels etc). A heavier robot is harder to land, so a bigger lander is required. And all of that has to be launched out of Earth's atmosphere and gravity well and flung across interplanetary space to Mars, meaning a much bigger rocket...

      The point I'm rambling towards is that even a tiny bit of weight on the final payload can multiply up to exponentially more weight on the launch vehicle, and thus more cost. Sometimes, one has to deal with a problem because it's just too damn expensive to fix.

      1. hplasm

        Re: Dust

        Just give it a Turbo button, and *wizz* the dust flies off...

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Dust

      There will be a power budget for the mission that will take into account the dust on the solar panels and also the radiation damage that will cause the solar panel output to decline over time.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dust

      The critical thing is that such a system needs both to work, and to be less massive than just building the panels enough bigger to cope. In particular, if it's going to work it will, itself, require some power, so the panels will already need to be bigger enough to provide that power. You can then see that, if you leave it out, it might just be that the bigger panels you needed for it are big enough.

      (In real life there's some complicated optimisation problem here of course.)

    4. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: Dust

      Mars atmospheric pressure is 6hPa, compared to our 1000hPa. What sort of density and volume do you need to remove dust from large panels, I wonder? Even if it's 10hPa, that's the same compression ratio vs the atmosphere as 1600hPa here on earth. Quite a tall order for any pump.

    5. druck Silver badge

      Re: Dust

      We were talking to the team on their stand at Goodwood, the sample containers the rover will have to find and collect are quite small, about 12cm long. Perseverance can't leave an exact location, due to the lack of GPS on Mars, so they will have find them visually, hoping that dust wont cover them up over the years before the recovery missing takes place.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Dust

        I wonder how long the tracks left by the depositing rover will last? Just how much depth of dust does a dust storm drop? Maybe they can just follow the tracks?

        On the other hand, they know precisely where the original landed and should have a very good idea of exactly how far and in which direction it travelled. Dead reckoning should be quite accurate.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Amazing boffinry

    Very complicated mission indeed. Ten years is a long time to keep your fingers crossed

  4. SteveK

    All the rover need do is package whatever it's sending in metal cylinders and fire them back at Earth, aiming for Horsell Common. It'll be a million to one chance, but still they come.

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