The Aurora mission first includes a return capsule to be launched in 2011 and put into orbit around Mars. Two years later, a second spacecraft carrying a descent module and ascent vehicle will be launched on a similar trajectory. During its final approach to Mars, the descent module and ascent vehicle will be released and make a controlled landing on the planet. Carrying its precious samples, the ascent vehicle will later lift off from the surface, then rendezvous with the first craft. After receiving the canister loaded with Martian rocks, it will return to Earth.
March 8th, 2005