This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Mars surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA is pressing ahead on the agency’s long-sought robotic Holy Grail mission – rocketing back to Earth pieces of Mars. This fast-paced, multi-billion dollar endeavor is dedicated to hauling back planetary particulars from the Red Planet to our world in the early 2030’s.

A Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign is now being orchestrated by NASA and the European Space Agency, a multi-spacecraft enterprise that’s already underway as NASA’s Perseverance rover wheels away on the Red Planet at Jezero Crater. It is busily gathering choice specimens for eventual conveyance to Earth.

Perseverance rover deposits select rock and soil samples in sealed tubes on Mars’s surface for future missions to retrieve and bring back to Earth for detailed study.

While having our planet on the receiving end of aeon-aged Mars memorabilia, plausibly containing Martian life, that viewpoint is deemed “low risk” in terms of ecological and public safety. But that risk is not zero.




Go to my new Scientific American story – “Controversy Grows Over whether Mars Samples Endanger Earth” – at:

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