Ben Boyes, the Sample Fetch Rover project manager at Airbus described the Martian mission as "ambitious and technologically very advanced", adding that "a$3 double first of launching from the planet's surface and the in-orbit transfer of the samples means it will be possible for the first time to directly study Mars soil in laboratories on Earth".
The job of the preceding Mars 2020 rover will be to drill and dig up soil samples and to place them in more than 30 tubes at various points. The vehicle will be called the Fetch Rover and it might be ready for launch by 2026.
The rover is supposed to roam the Martian wastelands, collect the samples from their locations then load them on into a single large canister on the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).
The rover will be created to collect soil sample canisters left behind by NASA's Mars 2020 rover, and will have to detect these canisters and place them in its storage space after driving to them autonomously. Fetch will have to go in a few years later, find each tube, use its robotic arm to pick it up and store it. Fetch will also have to plot its route by itself.
Airbus is working on a rover that will collect soil from Mars and bring it back to Earth, according to reports.
Simultaneously, ESA's ExoMars rover will be drilling below the Martian surface to search for evidence of life, and the ExoMars orbiter now sampling Mars' atmosphere will form a crucial part of the communications infrastructure for the Sample Return mission, for which it will act as a relay satellite. It will have to collect every canister that 2020 Rover leaves behind and then get back to the rocket it landed on Mars with, then take off and come to Earth.
UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah praised "the remarkable new project, which will see samples brought back from Mars to Earth for the first time ever", and which "demonstrated Britain's world-leading scientific and engineering innovation".
The story is based on a report by the BBC.