Sampling Devices for Planetary Exploration

Sampling techniques are developed mainly to take soil samples on other planets. Historically, such missions were performed first in the USA and Soviet Union around the seventies: Apollo manned-missions brought back rock and core samples; Luna automated probes brought back samples from the Moon and deployed rovers and Viking lander analysed the Mars surface. ESA study and develop sampling tools to be used in similar missions, on Mars, Mercury, Venus and other planets, as well as on their moons and on comets. In most mission scenarios, samples should be analysed in-situ: the return of the samples is a more demanding task.
ESA initiated important technology studies related to soil sampling around 1985, when preparing for the Comet Nucleus Sample Return (CNSR) mission; they were mainly focused on drilling and coring techniques. The results of these studies include several drills systems, soil sampling tools, micro-rovers and moles.
Last update: 22 February 2011

Soil sampling devices

 •  SSA/DT (95-97) (
 •  CNSR SAS-1m (90-95) (
 •  CNSR– SAS-3m (88-90) (

Mars and future planets

 •  Drill with hammering mechanism (DHM) (05-07) (
 •  Ultrasonic Drill Tool (05-07) (
 •  Instrumented Mole System (IMS) (02-06) (
 •  Sampling Mole (99-02) (
 •  Mobile Penetrometer: “Mole” (96-97) (
 •  Mobile Instrument Deployment Device (MIDD) (94-02) (
 •  Current and future developments (