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Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Build Mars Ascent Vehicle

Mars mission development

Lockheed Martin Wins Contract to Build Mars Ascent Vehicle

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Monday announced that it has awarded Lockheed Martin an up to $194 million contract to build a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle. The envisioned MAV will load samples collected by the Perseverance rover from the Martian surface and carry them off into orbit, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.

The capability to bring samples from the Martian surface into orbit is an essential element of the overall Mars Sample Return campaign being developed by NASA and the European Space Agency. Once in orbit, the samples can then be picked up by other spacecraft and brought back to Earth, it was explained.

According to NASA’s plans, the MAV will be transported to Mars on a NASA-led Sample Retrieval Lander, which will also carry an ESA-developed rover. The European rover will then pick up samples of Martian rock and regolith cached by Perseverance and return them to the lander. Perseverance may also return some samples to the lander on its own, SpaceNews further reported.

The newly-awarded contract covers design, development, testing and evaluation of the overall MAV and its ground support equipment. However, NASA and Lockheed refused to disclose additional technical details about the MAV’s design.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said that committing to the Mars Ascent Vehicle represents an early and concrete step to hammer out the details of not simply landing on Mars, but of taking off from it. The scientific data to be gleaned from the MAV program is seen to play a crucial role in future manned Mars missions.

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Category: Space

Tags: contract award Lockheed Martin Mars Ascent Vehicle NASA Perseverance space SpaceNews