Nasa has begun testing the engines that will be installed in the so-called Mars Ascent Vehicle, the rocket that is likely to become the first to lift off from another planet within our solar system.
The Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) is a component of what Nasa refers to as the Mars Sample Return mission, a project planned in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency). The mission’s objective is to retrieve the material currently being collected by Nasa’s rover Perseverance on Mars.
MAV will be equipped with two engines, SRM1 and SRM2. SRM1 will be used to lift MAV off Mars, while SRM2 will be employed to propel the second stage of MAV to the Earth Return Orbiter, the spacecraft that will orbit Mars and eventually return to Earth with the samples gathered by Perseverance.
The timeline and scope of Nasa’s and ESA’s Mars Sample Return mission have undergone multiple changes since it was initially approved in 2021. The latest estimate is that the Earth Return Orbiter will depart for Mars in 2027, and the Mars Ascent Vehicle will leave Earth in 2030. If this schedule holds, materials from Mars could potentially reach Earth sometime around 2033.
In the video above, you can see how Nasa tested both the SRM1 and SRM2 engines.