DAVID DUCROS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID DUCROS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Mars Sample Return orbiter. Computer artwork of the Mars Sample Return orbiter approaching Mars. This CNES (French) orbiter is planned for a 2007 launch. Its thrusters are firing, and solar panels (blue) have been deployed to provide power. A heat shield (white) will protect the craft during the aerocapture manoeuvre, when it uses the upper Martian atmosphere to brake and enter orbit around the planet. The probe will then find and collect samples injected into orbit by an earlier Mars lander, returning them to Earth for analysis. The craft will also deploy the four NetLander probes (brown cones at rear of spacecraft) to land on, and investigate, widely separated areas of Mars.
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