The ExoMars rover built by AirbusAirbus

Airbus is building a Mars Rover that can bring back samples to Earth. The vehicle will be called the Fetch Rover and it might be ready for launch by 2026. The mission is a part of a collaboration between Nasa and ESA that was announced in April this year.

Airbus has now been awarded a contract worth $5.2 million to develop the Fetch. Airbus' UK team will be working on this project. The team is already working on the ExoMars rover, which will reach Mars in 2021.

While ExoMars is designed to carry several instruments, the Fetch has only one mission- to find Nasa's 2020 rover, collect samples, and bring it back to Earth, according to release. The Mars 2020 rover will reach the Red Planet in 2020.

The 2020 Rover will move around Mars, drilling holes in various parts of the planet, putting the samples in small tubes and drop them off at set sites. Fetch will have to go in a few years later, find each tube, use its robotic arm to pick it up and store it. All of this has to be done autonomously. Fetch will also have to plot its route by itself.

Ben Boyes, who will lead the feasibility team at Airbus, explained that Fetch will be a relatively small rover — about 130 kg — but what is required of it is very demanding. The vehicle will have to cover large distances using a high degree of autonomy, planning its own path ahead day after day. That is, however, only half the job, because those samples will have to be brought back to Earth for study.

In 2026, the recovery mission will be launched by Nasa and land a rocket on Mars carrying the Fetch rover.

Fetch's mission will take about 150 days. It will have to collect every canister that 2020 Rover leaves behind and then get back to the rocket it landed on Mars with, then take off and come to Earth.

The story is based on a report by the BBC. 

NASA Sample return
Sample return concept by NASANASA