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The Sample Transfer Arm (STA), A Unique Mars Robot

The Sample Transfer Arm will play a crucial role in the success of the Mars Sample Return campaign, a NASA / ESA collaboration.

The mission to return martian samples back to Earth will see a European 2.5 metre-long robotic arm pick up tubes filled with precious soil from Mars and transfer them to a rocket for an historic interplanetary delivery.

The sophisticated robot, known as the Sample Transfer Arm or STA, will play a crucial role in the success of the Mars Sample Return campaign. The joint endeavour between @NASA and ESA aims to bring back martian samples to the best labs in our planet by 2033.

The robotic arm will land on Mars to retrieve the sample tubes NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently collecting from the surface. Able to “see”, “feel” and take autonomous decisions, the Sample Transfer Arm will identify, pick up and transfer the tubes into the first rocket fired off another planet – the Mars Launch System.

Only after the robot closes the container’s lid, the martian samples will be launched for rendezvous with ESA’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) and bring the material back to Earth.

The Sample Transfer Arm is conceived to be autonomous, highly reliable and robust.

Its architecture mimics a human arm with a shoulder, elbow and wrist, and has its own built-in brain and eyes. The robot can perform a large range of movements with seven degrees of freedom.

Science fiction great Clifford Simak described something similar in his 1944 story City - even though it was used on Earth!


(Robotic Arm from 'City' by Clifford Simak)

Suddenly the mower stopped and clicked excitedly. A panel in its side snapped open and a cranelike arm reached out. Grasping steel fingers fished around in the grass, came up triumphantly with a stone clutched tightly, dropped the stone into a small container, disappeared back into the panel again. The lawn mower gurgled, purred on again, following its swath.
(Read more about the robotic arm)

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