According to the BBC, the European Space Agency (ESA) has agreed with the aerospace giant Airbus to build the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) space cargo ship, designed to deliver Martian soil to Earth.
The ERO will weigh 6.5 tons and will be powered by ion thrusters powered by massive solar panels capable of supporting the Earth-Mars-Earth spacecraft. 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 project.
At the first stage, the American rover Perseverance will extract the necessary rock samples, after which it will transfer them to another ESA vehicle, which will be delivered to the surface of Mars by a NASA lander.
The next stage is the delivery of the rock into orbit using a small Mars Ascent Vehicle rocket, where ERO will await it. The soil will be loaded into a small soccer ball-sized container, after which the expedition will head back. If all goes according to plan, the Martian soil capsule should land in the Utah desert in 2031.