According to the Air Force, the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed with the Airbus aerospace giant on the construction of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) spacecraft intended for the delivery of Martian soil to Earth.
ERO weight will be 6.5 tons, it will be equipped with ion engines, which will be driven by massive solar panels capable of ensuring the flight of a spacecraft along the Earth-Mar-Earth route. The start of the expedition is scheduled for 2026.
It is worth clarifying that this is a joint American-European project, the purpose of which is to prove the existence of life on the Red Planet. Several NASA and ESA robots will take part in the implementation of the project.
At the first stage, the American rover of Persevrance will receive the necessary breed samples, after which it will transmit them to another ESA apparatus, which will be delivered to the surface of Mars with the NASA landing module.
The next stage is the delivery of the breed to orbit using a small Mars ascent Vehicle missile, where Ero will expect it. The soil will be loaded into a small container the size of a football, after which the expedition will go backwards. If everything goes according to plan, then the capsule with Martian soil should land in the desert of Utah in 2031.
Source — BBC