EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Mars Sample Return orbiter. Computer artwork of the European Space Agency's proposed Mars Sample Return orbiter in orbit around Mars. This mission, slated for launch in 2011, will bring back a sample of soil from Mars. The mission will have 2 stages: first the orbiter, which will carry the return capsule, will be launched and put into orbit, then, 2 years after the first launch, a second spacecraft carrying the descent and ascent modules will be launched. After the descent module has landed on the Martian surface it will collect a soil sample from a depth of 1.5 to 2 metres and seal it inside a canister on the ascent vehicle. The ascent vehicle will leave Mars and dock with the orbiter, which will then return the sample to Earth.
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