Archive for March, 2019

Credit: Brown University/OrbitBeyond

The Woodlands, Texas – Moon exploration via an ultra-small rover about the size of a printer.

Planetary scientists at Brown University are collaborating with the New Jersey-based company, OrbitBeyond, to plan the scientific mission of a small-scale lunar rover.

The rover was originally designed to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE by a team of engineers (TeamIndus) based in India. Now OrbitBeyond plans to launch the rover in 2020.

Late last year, NASA announced nine U.S. companies are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. OrbitBeyond is one of those nine firms.

The project is being presented here at Microsymposium 60, a meeting held here prior to the start of the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), March 18–22.

This year, an LPSC special focus is on private companies that are working on ways to send payloads — rovers and other cargo — to the Moon.

Credit: OrbitBeyond

Science from scratch

Brown University PhD candidates, Ashley Palumbo and Ariel Deutsch, led a team of students who mapped the tiny rover’s landing area, and set scientific goals for the mission.

“We were able to design specific scientific measurements that OrbitBeyond will be able to acquire with the payload that already existed on this tiny rover,” Palumbo said.

“Essentially what we got to do… is design the scientific aspect of this mission from scratch, which isn’t something that you ever get to do at the education level we’re at right now,” Palumbo said. Toward the end of the class, the students had the chance to present their design reference mission to members of OrbitBeyond.

Deutsch says there are increased opportunities for research, as commercial space exploration companies expand. “It’s allowing people to put more experiments on the Moon, and at the same time it’s also driving down the cost.”

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image of Moon’s Mare Imbrium region. Credit: Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

Young volcanic field

The plan calls for the OrbitBeyond rover to land in a relatively young volcanic field in the Moon’s Mare Imbrium region and will use high definition cameras to study the surrounding terrain. The small-scale rover has forward and backward facing cameras, which the team will use to study the lunar terrain.

“By visiting those lava flows from these recent volcanic events, we can learn so much about how volcanism has changed through time, on the Moon,” Palumbo explained.

Scientific output

The Brown University class, taught by Jim Head, a distinguished professor of geological science, combined lectures on lunar evolution with writing a design reference mission for the lunar rover.

The students in Head’s class were tasked with figuring out what science the rover would be capable of doing, given the competition’s constraints.

Head said that, in small groups, students were able to focus on different questions with the goal of optimizing the scientific output of the rover’s mission. Some students evaluated what data to collect, while others looked into the best landing sites from a scientific perspective. Another group, he said, researched how the rover could best navigate the Moon with only a single solar panel as an energy source.

Note: This article is partly based on Sofia Rudin’s The Public’s Radio show, aired here:

https://thepublicsradio.org/article/brown-university-team-plans-moon-rover-mission

Curiosity Front Hazcam Left B image taken on Sol 2347, March 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2349 tasks.

“Curiosity is back to work after another hiatus due to a computer reset,” reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

“These sorts of resets do happen from time to time for operating spacecraft and we’re able to enjoy the benefit of two computers to operate the rover by switching to the other one when needed.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2347, March 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As you’d expect, Guzewich adds, the view from the rover hasn’t changed much lately and the robot’s arm is still poised over the bedrock target “Fife.”

Curiosity Navcam Left B photo taken on Sol 2347, March 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Ripple fields

A recent plan has Curiosity performing an Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integration on Fife before continuing to examine the nearby bedrock including a pebble called “Schiehallion.”

The rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will also both study some dune and ripple fields nearby called “Motherwell.”

“Our atmospheric monitoring is also behind schedule,” Guzewich notes, so the plan called for trying to make up for lost time with three measurements of atmospheric opacity in these next two sols, two searches for dust devils, and a Mastcam sky survey where scientists examine the properties of dust particles suspended in the air.

Curiosity ChemCam Remote Micro-Imager photo taken on Sol 2347, March 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Curiosity Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) photo obtained on Sol 2339, March 6, 2019. MAHLI is located on the turret at the end of the rover’s robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS

Earth’s moon taunts. There is a growing chorus of experts that view this “eighth continent” as a near-by world of natural resources sitting there at the edge of Earth’s gravity well – ready for the picking.

Visionary zeal aside, clarity is step one. Wanted is the right combination of vision, gobs of moon moola, make-it-happen technologies and the political willpower to unchain the Moon’s wealth.

Credit: James Vaughan

A recent report — Commercial Lunar Propellant Architecture: A Collaborative Study of Lunar Propellant Production – has cut to the chase and details what’s needed and what happens next. This appraisal of industry, NASA, lunar scientists, and space lawyers focused on extracting water from the moon’s permanently shadowed regions for use as rocket fuel.

For detailed information, go to the full study at:

http://cislunar.nss.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Commercial-Lunar-Propellant-Architecture.pdf

Also, my new Space.com story on this study is here:

NASA Moon Mining Could Actually Work, with the Right Approach

https://www.space.com/moon-mining-space-exploration-report.html

Image of China’s Yutu-2 lunar rover taken by Chang’e-4 lander.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

 

China’s lunar rover Yutu-2, or Jade Rabbit-2, has driven nearly 540 feet (163 meters) on the Moon’s farside. Controllers on Earth expect the machinery to work longer than its three-month design life.

Both the rover and the lander of the Chang’e-4 lunar probe switched to a dormant mode on Wednesday as the extremely cold lunar night fell, according to the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The Chang’e-4 mission landed in Von Kármán crater within the South Pole-Aitken Basin on January 3.

Farside photo from Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

Lightest rover

The nearly 300 pound (135 kilograms) Yutu-2 is the first ever device to drive on the farside, as well as being the lightest rover ever sent to the Moon.

As reported by China’s Xinhua news service, scientists anticipate that Jade Rabbit-2 will travel farther to send more images of the unknown terrain, “listen” to the stories recorded in the ancient lunar rocks, and find more traces of the early history of the Moon and the solar system.

Credit: CSIS

 

The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has issued a new report: Spaceports of the World (1957–2018)

Written by Thomas G. Roberts, program manager and research associate at the CSIS Aerospace Security Project, this report is accompanied by an interactive data repository.

With the rate of space launches projected to grow exponentially in the coming years, spaceports will become an increasingly important to the global space industry.

Which countries and private companies operate the world’s most active spaceports?

Active, inactive spaceports

This report analyzes ground-based space launches from 1957 to 2018, including brief histories of all active and inactive orbital spaceports, 10 year launch records for the 22 spaceports still in use today, and the current status of several proposals to create new facilities capable of supporting orbital space launches.

To download a copy of this very informative report, go to:

https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190313__SpaceportsOfTheWorld.pdf

Below, use the play button to discover the history of ground-based space launches around the world. Click a spaceport to learn more about its launch history.

This interactive data repository is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Special thanks to Jacque Schrag for her work developing this tool.

Spaceports of the World

Credit: JAXA/Toyota

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) have agreed to consider the possibility of collaborating on international space exploration.

As a first step, JAXA and Toyota will accelerate an ongoing joint study of a two-person, pressurized Moon rover.

Two-person vehicle would employ fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.
Credit: JAXA/Toyota

Electric vehicle

The pressurized rover would employ fuel cell electric vehicle technologies, having a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers).

According to JAXA Vice President, Koichi Wakata, crewed, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, “which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.”

Moon mobility.
Credit: JAXA/Toyota/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

Space mobility

A pressurized rover that can travel more than 6,000 miles in the lunar environment is a necessity. Toyota’s “space mobility” concept meets such mission requirements. Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a crew-carrying, pressurized rover since May of 2018.

Making tracks.
Credit: JAXA/Toyota/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

 

The JAXA/Toyota pressurized rover would be about the size of two microbuses:

Length: 20 feet (6.0 meters); width: 17 feet (5.2 meters); height: (12 feet) 3.8 meters and would offer a living space of 13m3. The rover under study would be capable of accommodating two people (four people in an emergency).

Go to this video showcasing the pressurized rover:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=26&v=1kd2nFHAAtU

Credit: DLR/ESA/NASA

Effective countermeasures are needed for astronauts to be able to live in space, on the Moon or on Mars for long periods of time in the future.

Artificial Gravity as a countermeasure (AGBRESA) is a major long-term bed-rest study that will be carried out by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.

DLR’s short-arm human centrifuge.
Credit: :envihab

To be launched later this month, a first is use of artificial gravity as a possible means of overcoming the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body. The artificial gravity will be created by having the test participants lie down in the DLR short-arm human centrifuge once per day.

State-of-the-art facility

This unique research effort makes use of :envihab (from the words “Environment” and “Habitat”), a one-story, 3500-square-meter, state-of-the-art facility.

Eight separate modules are used in a “house within a house” design.

Credit: :envihab

:envihab includes a short-arm human centrifuge to, for instance, conduct cardiovascular, bone and muscle research, laboratories for studying the effects of oxygen reduction and pressure decrease on test subjects, MRI/PET analysis facilities, rooms for psychological stress simulations and rehabilitations, microbiological and molecular biological research tools, as well as places to house and monitor test subjects.

At :envihab, super-targeted research is conducted in space and flight physiology, radiation biology, space psychology, operational medicine, biomedical research and analogous terrestrial situations.

 

Credit: NASA

The surface conditions on the Moon are clearly a harsh mistress of a world, with high doses of ultraviolet irradiation, wide temperature extremes and low pressure – then toss in high levels of ionizing radiation.

A new report takes a look at microbial survival on lunar spacecraft – even suggesting where best to go to capture microbes sent to the Moon onboard lunar spacecraft.

Model developed

A Lunar Microbial Survival (LMS) model was developed that estimates the total viable bioburden of all spacecraft landed on the Moon. The work was led by Andrew Schuerger at the University of Florida.

The research — A Lunar Microbial Survival Model for Predicting the Forward Contamination of the Moon – has been published in the journal, Astrobiology.

Although noteworthy articles have characterized microbial diversity of spacecraft before launch, almost no literature exists on how terrestrial microorganisms might survive the journey to the lunar surface or how long they might survive after delivery.

Soviet Union’s Luna-2.
Credit: NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive/GSFC

Landed, crashed missions

Since the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 spacecraft impacted the Moon on September 14, 1959, well over 54 missions have either landed or crashed on the lunar surface. The paper notes that 77 spacecraft, boosters, payloads, rovers, and other structures have made it to the surface of the Moon. But there has not been a systematic estimate compiled of the microbial bioburdens on all of this Moon-bound hardware.

“The primary reasons for developing the LMS model was to predict whether previously landed spacecraft might harbor viable bioburdens over time and identify for Earth return the most promising landed or crashed spacecraft hardware for future human missions,” the research paper explains.

Arrival of humans: 2030

The research paper says that LMS model predictions for 2030 (a reasonable date for the return of humans to the Moon) indicate that China’s Chang’e-3 lander/Yutu-1 rover is likely to retain significant numbers of viable bacteria, and only on deeply embedded surfaces.

Chang’e-4 farside mission – lander and Yutu-2 rover
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

“The newest Yutu rover would also be expected to have spores/cells surviving by January 1, 2030,” said Schuerger. “Also, there are other landers planned for the near future that have not yet been launched. I hope some of those teams add-in biological samples to be checked by a future astrobiologist collecting spacecraft parts in 2030,” he told Inside Outer Space.

NASA’s Surveyor III – new insight

Schuerger and his research colleagues also took note of the recovery of a single colony of Streptococcus mitis from foam insulation that was deeply embedded within the NASA Surveyor III camera recovered by Apollo 12 astronauts and brought back to Earth in November 1969.

Apollo 12’s visit to Surveyor III landing site.
Credit: NASA

During the Apollo 12 mission, astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean piloted their lander Intrepid within ‏1,640 feet (500 meters) of the Surveyor III spacecraft that was present on the Moon for 942 days (31.9 “lunations”) from April 20, 1967 to November 20, 1969.

Some scientists have previously reported that a single pure culture of Streptomyces mitis was recovered from circuit board foam insulation that was deeply embedded within the Surveyor III camera body. However, later research points to that hardware not handled on return by appropriate aseptic protocols.

The research paper backs the view that “the most likely explanation of the presence of S. mitis in the single positive culture tube from the assayed Surveyor III equipment was through contamination during the post-landing processing of the camera.”

China’s lander/rover – bioburden experiment

According to the paper, the last 10 lunar spacecraft may have residual viable microorganisms that are deeply embedded near the central cores of each spacecraft.

For January 1, 2030, again, a reasonable date for the return of humans to the Moon), five of the last ten lunar spacecraft would be expected to harbor no viable microorganisms. Only the Chang’e/Yutu landers and rovers could plausibly harbor significant bioburdens on deeply embedded components. That is, a population of viable microbes that might be detected on returned spacecraft components.

For all earlier spacecraft landed or crashed between September 14, 1959 (Luna 2) and August 18, 1976 (Luna 24) the LMS model predicts them to be free of viable Earth microorganisms.

The first picture Neil Armstrong took during the Apollo 11 moonwalk shows a jettison bag under Eagle’s descent stage.
Credit: NASA

High-priority

The new paper concludes by spotlighting high-priority astrobiology targets for collecting lunar archived payloads and equipment for microbial study.

For example, the highest priority for an Apollo-era microbial survey would be the nylon jettison (JETT) bags placed underneath the lunar module (LM) descent stages or tossed onto the lunar surface before leaving the Moon.

The JETT bags contain disposable materials from within the crewed LM ascent stages before landing, including water containers, human waste, food wrappers, Lithium hydroxide canisters (for airborne spores), and sleep restraints.

“If the JETT bags with human waste and sleep restraints were placed under the LM descent stages,” the research paper asserts, “they would have the richest microbial bioburdens and species diversity of the accessible materials on the Moon (i.e., materials directly handled by human astronauts), and the bags have been mostly shielded from the worst of the thermal cycling conditions on the Moon. Furthermore, the LM descent stages are the largest intact structures on the Moon and would provide insights into shielding against ionizing radiation effects on biological systems.”

Picking up the trash – new assignment for future Moonwalkers!
Credit: NASA

Microbial survival

Lastly, the researchers suggest that any new lunar spacecraft landed or crashed to the lunar surface during the next decade should be fitted with astrobiology payloads that could be recovered and analyzed for microbial survival, biosignature degradation, and materials alterations when humans return to the Moon around 2030.

“Such astrobiological experiments would require very little mass, but could greatly advance our understanding of how Earth microorganisms can withstand the perils of the lunar environment,” Schuerger and his fellow researchers conclude.

Key finding

One of the key findings of the LMS model was that spacecraft hardware on the Moon were exposed to incredibly high biocidal conditions in which the outside surfaces were very likely sterilized during the first lunation on the Moon.

On-the-spot investigation – Earth’s Moon, lunar microbial survival? Credit: NASA

The biocidal and interactive effects of UV irradiation, high-temperatures, cis-lunar vacuum, and ionizing radiation would have induced as many as 23 “lethal doses” on all bacteria on spacecraft external surfaces during each and every lunar day –roughly 14.45 days, Schuerger concludes.

“Thus, over the course of 30, 40, and roughly 50 years, we should expect absolutely no microbial survivors on external surfaces. The only sites in which surviving bacteria ‘might’ persist would be on deep internal structures that are protected from all biocidal factors except the high-vacuum environment on the Moon,” Schuerger told Inside Outer Space.

For a copy of this paper — A Lunar Microbial Survival Model for Predicting the Forward Contamination of the Moon — go to:

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2018.1952

Geologist Harrison Schmitt performs Moon tasks during Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
Credit: NASA

 

Unopened treasures rocketed back to Earth by Apollo moonwalkers. They are lunar collectibles returned to our planet in 1971-72.

A new NASA program — the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) — has selected nine teams to continue the science legacy of the Apollo missions by studying pieces of the Moon that have been carefully stored and untouched for nearly 50 years.

Team selections

A total of $8 million has been awarded to the teams.

The nine institutions include:

NASA Ames Research Center/Bay Area Environmental Research Institute: A team led by Alexander Sehlke will complete an experiment started 50 years ago by studying the frozen lunar samples from Apollo 17 to see how volatiles like water are stored in the radiation environment of the lunar surface, which is not protected by an atmosphere like Earth.

NASA Ames: A team led by David Blake and Richard Walrothwill study the vacuum-sealed sample to study “space weathering” or how exposure to the space environment affects the Moon’s surface.

NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center: A team led by Jamie Elsila Cook will study the vacuumed-sealed sample to better understand how small organic molecules—namely, precursors to amino acids—are preserved on the Moon.

NASA Goddard: A team led by Barbara Cohen and Natalie Curran will study the vacuum-sealed sample to investigate the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site. They’ll specifically be looking at the abundance of noble gases in the sample, which can tell them about the sample’s age.

University of Arizona: A team led by Jessica Barneswill study how curation affects the amount of hydrogen-bearing minerals in lunar soil, which will help us better understand how water is locked in minerals on the Moon.

University of California Berkeley: A team led by Kees Welten will study how micrometeorite and meteorite impacts may have affected the geology of the lunar surface.

US Naval Research Laboratory: A team led by Katherine Burgess will look at the frozen samples and the samples stored in helium to study how airless bodies are affected by exposure to the space environment.

University of New Mexico: A team led by Chip Shearer will look at the vacuum-sealed sample to study the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site. They will be studying samples from a region that had been cold enough for water to freeze—called a “cold trap.” This will be the first time a sample from one of these cold traps will be examined in the lab.

Mount Holyoke College/Planetary Science Institute: A team led by Darby Dyar will look at both the vacuum-sealed samples and samples stored on helium to study volcanic activity on the Moon. They’ll specifically look at tiny glass beads that formed rapidly during an ancient lunar eruption.

Astronaut David Scott, commander of Apollo 15, standing on the slope of Hadley Delta.
Credit: NASA

Open up

The samples won’t be opened right away, a NASA press statement explains.

First, the teams will work together and with the curation staff at NASA Johnson Space Center to determine the best way to open the sample to avoid contaminating them and maximize the science to be gained.

The teams for the Apollo Next-Generation Sample Analysis grants were selected by NASA’s Planetary Science Division and will be funded by the space agency’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program.

The goal of the ANGSA program is to maximize the science derived from samples returned by the Apollo Program in preparation for future lunar missions anticipated in the 2020s and beyond.

One of the Apollo 16 sample boxes being opened in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory on Earth. The box contains a large rock and many small sample bags.
Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center

Wholly or largely unstudied

Although most Apollo samples have been well characterized over the years, there remain several types of samples that have remained wholly or largely unstudied since their return, and have been curated under special conditions.

Unopened vacuum-sealed Apollo samples: Nine “special samples” were collected in containers that had indium knife-edge seals to maintain a lunar-like vacuum, and three such containers remain sealed from Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

Frozen Apollo samples: Several Apollo 17 samples were initially processed under nominal laboratory conditions in a nitrogen cabinet at room temperature, but placed into cold storage (-20°C) within one month of return: six subsamples of Apollo 17 drill core, nine subsamples of permanently shadowed soils, a subsample of soil, and all of the lunar rock identified as 71036.

Apollo samples stored in Helium: Apollo 15 Special Environmental Sample Container (SESC) specimens were opened in a helium cabinet inside an organic clean room at the University of California, Berkeley. A total of 21 subsamples have been continuously stored in Helium since this initial processing.

Vice President Mike Pence, center, views Sample 15014, which was collected during Apollo 15 with NASA’s Apollo Sample Curator Ryan Zeigler, left, and Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Dr. Harrison Schmitt, right, in Lunar Curation Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 in Houston, Texas. Sample 15014 is one of nine samples out of the 2,196 collected during the Apollo missions that was sealed inside its container on the Moon and still contains gasses from the Moon. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Advance our understanding

“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC.

“This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth.”

Research avenues

Once the teams have reported the output from their research, how will all this new analysis be aggregated and shared to offer, perhaps, different views of the Moon?

“The big consortium will need to organize itself, and make overall plans as a group,” responded Jeffrey Grossman, Discipline Scientist for ANGSA at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Studied Apollo 15 sample 15445 was melted during the Imbrium basin-forming impact 3.84 billion years ago. This sample is about 6 centimeters across.
Credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center

“They have a wide array of individual scientific goals, and all of the selected proposals had some kind of publication plan,” Grossman told Inside Outer Space. “The interesting thing,” he added, “is what kinds of synergy will develop within the consortium as all these avenues of research are pursued on a single sample.”

“Behind the scenes,” Grossman said, “we are also increasing the resources available to the Johnson Space Center curation team, to make sure that lots of great science can be done within the three-year period of the consortium awards. It’s hard to predict how this will come out, but I think NASA has chosen a fantastic team and is doing the right things to enable it to function as a group.”

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on the prowl and geared to collect and cache samples for future return to Earth.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Update: NASA’s fiscal year 2020 budget released today initiates a Mars sample return mission to retrieve specimens from Mars, and return those samples with the first launch from another planet.

A Mars sample return mission would incorporate commercial and international partnerships.

The NASA budget provides funding for a Mars sample return mission launching as early as 2026 that will bring samples collected by Mars 2020 back to Earth.

Return of samples from the surface of Mars has been a goal of the international Mars science community for many years.

Strategies for the collection of such Red Planet collectibles have ranged from “grab and go” acquisition from the surface, to dust collection in the atmosphere, to scientific selection by geologically capable rovers.

For state‐of‐the‐art high‐precision radioisotope analyses, sample handling and chemical processing in a clean laboratory such as the one shown here are typically required.
Credit: Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University

Cooperation and collaboration

In 2017, the space exploration programs associated with the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG) began discussion of a formal program of cooperation and collaboration among space‐faring nations related to Mars sample return, or MSR for short.

As input to this, the international MSR Objectives and Samples Team (iMOST) was chartered by IMEWG to address key science planning questions.

The outcome of this study – “The potential science and engineering value of samples delivered to Earth by Mars sample return” — has been issued in the journal, Meteoritics & Planetary Science, published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of The Meteoritical Society.

NASA Mars 2020 rover is designed to collect samples, store the specimens in tubes, then deposit the tubes on the surface for later pick-up.
Credit: NASA/ESA

Sharp focus

The deployment of NASA’s Mars 2020 sample‐collecting rover has brought the issues associated with the completion of Mars sample return into sharp focus.

That rover is set to collect and cache geological samples for possible eventual return to Earth. The transportation to Earth would require a sample‐retrieval mission, one that could also collect atmospheric samples, and an Earth‐return mission.

Involvement of the international community in these missions would be very beneficial in terms of sharing cost, risk, and benefit, according to the iMOST report.

The five geologic environments of primary interest to interpret the primary geologic processes and history that formed the Martian geologic record, with an emphasis on the role of water.
Credit: iMOST

Retrieval questions

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has more sample tubes than are intended to be returned.

In that case, some future team associated with the retrieval missions will make decisions about which samples to return. The iMOST report may help provide the technical basis for those decisions.

iMOST report notes there’s need to constrain the nature of the potential hazards to future human exploration. The five primary knowledge gaps are highlighted.
Credit: iMOST

 

 

Additionally, among other aspects of the report, its aimed at supporting planning for the curation needed to preserve the samples and instrumental facilities required to make the measurements associated with achieving the objectives of Mars sample return.

 

To go to this open access article, go to:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/maps.13242