Within this century, astronauts will be turning soil on Mars into geopolymer cement, but in just a few more years, the ESA’s Sample Transfer Arm robot will be collecting tubes left on the Martian surface by NASA’s Perseverance rover. This 2.5 meter-long (8.2 foot) robotic arm will be fully autonomous, highly reliable and very dexterous.
Its ability to see, feel and take autonomous decisions enables the arm to carefully extract tubes from the rover. The process would include the Sample Transfer Arm picking up tubes from the Martian ground, insert them into a container and then close the lid before lifting-off from Mars. Two cameras and a host of sensors allow the hand to decide the best course of action and coordinate movements accordingly.
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Handling the precious martian samples and getting them ready for delivery on an extraordinary trip from Mars to Earth is an amazing feat. From its inception to the first moves on Mars, this robotic arm is a testament to the enormous amount of expertise and knowhow we have in Europe. The Sample Transfer Arm will be the helping hand that will take planetary science to a new level,” said David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration.