Nov 23, 2022 – NASA selected Honeybee Robotics to design, fabricate, and deliver Spin Eject Mechanism (SEM) for the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. The SEM restrains Earth Entry System or EES (conical-shaped capsule that re-enters Earth atmosphere with precious Mars rocks), during launch, cruise, and on-orbit operations around Mars. The primary job of SEM, however, is to release the EES from the MSR Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft. This would be the last major step in returning Mars samples to Earth!
Honeybee Robotics also provided five Witness Plate Assemblies (WPAs) for the Mars Perseverance rover mission. These are ultra-clean pencil size tubes that capture molecules and particles that Perseverance rover is ‘shedding’ at Mars. WPAs will fly home alongside Mars rocks. Once back on Earth, we will analyze WPAs to determine if we ever contaminated returned Mars rocks. WPAs are arguably the cleanest hardware ever shipped to another planet.
SEM is another critical payload that Honeybee is providing for Mars missions. Honeybee’s Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) on Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) was the first drill to cut Mars rocks. Honeybee’s Icy Soil Acquisition Device (ISAD) on Mars Phoenix mission was the first drill to cut Martian ice. Honeybee’s Sample Manipulation System on Curiosity rover was the first complex sample delivery system for Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument on Curiosity Rover. And finally, Honeybee’s Dust Removal Tool (DRT) on Curiosity rover was the first Martian sweeper!
Photo Credit: Mars Sample Return Concept Illustration Courtesy of NASA
NASA announcement: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-contract-for-mars-sample-return-systems
Video depicting steps in bringing samples from mars: https://mars.nasa.gov/msr/multimedia/videos/?v=523