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Space & Astronomy

Mars sample return mission is in the works

By T.K. Randall
September 17, 2019 · Comment icon 19 comments

Curiosity's successor will collect some Mars soil for later pickup. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA and ESA are hoping to secure formal approval to return samples of Mars soil to the Earth for study.
While previous missions to Mars have involved the use of compact laboratory equipment to analyze the content of materials collected on the Red Planet, nothing can compare to the level of scrutiny such samples could be put under if scientists were to have direct access to them here on Earth.

To this end, officials have been working for years to launch a sample return mission beginning with the Mars 2020 rover which will collect up some of the soil and prepare it for pickup at a later date.

Finding the funds to develop the second part of such a mission however has not been easy.

"The 2020 budget, the president's recommended budget, included Mars sample return as a recommendation that we begin working on," said NASA's Lori Glaze.
"We don't know the status of that through congressional funding yet because we don't have an appropriations bill yet, but we're hopeful that there will be some appropriations there so we can move out on this activity."

Determining exactly how much such a mission would cost has also proven a challenge.

"Keep in mind, we're looking at a collaborative approach, which helps," said Glaze. "It's in the kind of $2.5 to $3 billion (range). And that number is for the US side, the launch of the lander, (it) does not include the fetch rover, that's ESA-provided. On the Earth Return Orbiter, it's ESA-provided, but it carries a US payload capture system and re-entry system."

"Hopefully, by the end of the calendar year, we'll know what the congressional appropriation is for NASA, and whether or not that includes funding for Mars sample return."

"And also, in November, ESA has their ministerial meeting coming up, where they hopefully get the permission to move out and move forward with Mars sample return on their side."

Source: Spaceflight Now | Comments (19)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #10 Posted by RoofGardener 5 years ago
I believe that is true. In point of fact, they can produce their own water by electrolising sea water. It's just food they need. 
Comment icon #11 Posted by It's Just An Opinion 5 years ago
wow, I didn't know that about the water. That's Amazing, they can almost practically just live there if they decided to grow food with artificial lighting. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by brian100 5 years ago
Even so, they are still confined to this vessel. Venturing out is the scuba diver thing.
Comment icon #13 Posted by RoofGardener 5 years ago
Indeed, they ARE amazing machines, @It's Just An Opinion. I doubt the current military vessels could grow food though.. even though they are BIG, there just isn't space for it. Bear in mind that the typical US nuclear submarine can have about 140 people on board. As it stands, with every inch of space crammed with food, they "only" have an endurance of 90 days.  That compares to around 30 days for the biggest diesel-electric submarine. 
Comment icon #14 Posted by It's Just An Opinion 5 years ago
Comment icon #15 Posted by It's Just An Opinion 5 years ago
If space is the only thing stopping them from having crops, I wonder if there are any underwater self sustainable military facilities. It's possible but would be very expensive. It might seem redundant since there are way better ways to resupply, but for those people considering to build a colony on the moon or mars it's probably the best first step to take. 
Comment icon #16 Posted by RoofGardener 5 years ago
An intriguing thought !  We have the international space station.. and before that, SkyLab. But do we have an equivelant facility underwater I wonder ? 
Comment icon #17 Posted by It's Just An Opinion 5 years ago
I wonder indeed XD  ░░░░░░░░▄▄▄███░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░░░▄▄██████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░███████████████░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ ░▀███████████████░░░░░▄▄▄░░░░░░░░░ ░░░███████████████▄███▀▀▀░░░░░░░░░ ░░░░███████████████▄▄... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by It's Just An Opinion 5 years ago
I'm sorry, tasteless joke. I was just amused for a second of picturing you having an extreme British accent. 
Comment icon #19 Posted by RoofGardener 5 years ago
One was entirely flabbergasted ! 

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