NASA, ESA to Discuss Mars Sample Return Mission

This illustration shows a concept for a proposed NASA Mars lander-and-rocket combination that would play a key role in returning to Earth samples of Mars material collected by the Perseverance rover. This Sample Retrieval Lander would carry a small rocket (about 10 feet, or 3 meters, tall) called the Mars Ascent Vehicle to the Martian surface. After using a robotic arm to load the rovers sealed sample tubes into a container in the nose cone of the rocket, the lander would launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle into orbit around the Red Planet.

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 27, to discuss the architecture for its Mars Sample Return campaign.

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) recently held a systems requirement review as part of the Mars Sample Return campaigns conceptual design phase — a phase when the architecture is refined and solidified. The briefing will present the architecture proposal that is expected to be finalized in September 2022.

The Mars Sample Return campaign may revolutionize humanity’s understanding of Mars by returning scientifically selected samples for study using the most sophisticated instruments around the world. This strategic partnership with ESA will be the first mission to return samples from another planet, including the first launch from the surface of another planet. The samples to be returned currently being collected by Perseverance during its exploration of Jezero Crater, home to an ancient river-delta are thought to be the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for life.

Teleconference participants include:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters in Washington
  • David Parker, director of Human and Robotic Exploration, ESA
  • Jeff Gramling, director, Mars Sample Return Program, NASA
  • Francois Spoto, head of Mars exploration group, ESA
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