NASA is moving to bring back rocks from Mars to Earth

NASA is moving to bring back rocks from Mars to Earth

This image shows the concept of a NASA Mars Ascent vehicle carrying samples into orbit around Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Sending a spacecraft to Mars is one thing. Go down to the surface, pick up some parts of the planet and bring them back to Earth. But NASA is trying to do that.

NASA announced on Tuesday Results of an Independent Review Board (IRB) assessment The planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission will bring back a portion of the red planet for our scientists to study.

“After reviewing the agency’s ambitious Mars sample return plan, NASA is ready for the campaign, developing decades of scientific advances and technological advances in Mars exploration.” NASA said in a statement Tuesday.

The IRB has made extensive recommendations, such as setting up offices to help NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), the mission partner, operate more smoothly. It has been asked to independently assess the hardware and resources and give a new perspective on the budget, which is expected to raise $ 4 billion in the initial stages of the campaign.

NASA already has an important part of the big mission. The Persistence Rover It is scheduled to travel to Mars in February 2021. The rover is equipped with several sample tubes, which will be used to collect rocks and soil for later MSR recovery.

The project calls for more key components, including the “get” rover from the ESA, to collect abandoned sample tubes and transport them to the NASA – built Mars Ascent spacecraft, which will orbit Mars. An ESA Earth Return Orbiter will meet with the vehicle in orbit around Mars and bring the samples back.

If it seems complicated, so be it. That’s one of the reasons why NASA started out as “the first independent review of the major strategic mission of any NASA science mission directorate.”

NASA and ISA hope to launch the next phase of MSR by the middle of the 2020s. If all goes well, by 2030 we could have brought the ancient pieces of Mars to Earth.

Thomas Surbuchen said, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, “Ultimately, I believe this sample return effort will be worthwhile, and will help us answer important astronomical questions about the Red Planet – a step closer to our goal of sending humans to Mars.”

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