ESA completes final design of a spacecraft to bring Martian samples

An artist's illustration of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) over Mars
An artist’s illustration of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) over Mars. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/MSFC)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has completed the final design of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) spacecraft on July 5, 2024, which would be an essential part of the Mars Sample Return mission. 

Now the next step is to build and test the components of the spacecraft before its launch in 2027.

The Mars Sample Return mission is a joint venture between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).

The mission will bring back martian rock, soil, and atmospheric samples to Earth collected by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. 

The European Space Agency (ESA) will provide the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) and a robotic arm of the Sample Retrieval Lander to the Mars Sample Return mission.

The main job of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) is to capture the sample container in Mars orbit and bring it back to Earth.

It will be the first spacecraft to make a full round-trip from Earth to Mars.

The Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) would take about two years to reach Mars orbit, one year to perform its operations, and another two years to return to Earth.

In addition to the sample return, the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) will provide crucial Mars-Earth communications coverage for NASA’s Perseverance rover and the Sample Retrieval Lander.

The complex Mars Sample Return mission, in short: 

Multiple spacecraft will be launched to collect the Martian samples and return them to Earth successfully.

NASA will launch the Sample Retrieval Lander to collect Martian samples. It will carry a pair of helicopters (similar to the Mars Ingenuity helicopter) and a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

The lander will collect sample tubes left by the Perseverance Mars rover through its robotic arm and the pair of helicopters.

After the sample collection, the sample container will be launched into Mars orbit through a mini-rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

And the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) to capture the sample container in Mars orbit and bring it back to Earth.

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of

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