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NASA gets green light to bring Mars rock samples back to Earth

If all goes according to the plan, the process of picking up the rocks will be initiated soon and the samples will reach the earth in 2030s

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: November 12, 2020 12:30:53 pm
NASA Mars Sample, NASA ESA partnership, NASA Mars sample return mission, mars 2020 Perservarance Rover, mars rock samples, mars space explorationThe illustration shows a concept of how the NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is going to attempt a first of its kind feat as it has got the green light to bring a sample of Mars back to Earth for scientists to study. The announcement came on November 10 under the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. These rocks from the red planet will be a big step towards space exploration. The historic feat will be carried out by NASA in an international partnership with ESA (European Space Agency).

“Following an examination of the agency’s ambitious Mars Sample Return plan, the board’s report concludes that NASA is prepared for the campaign, building on decades of scientific advancements and technical progress in Mars exploration,” NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

The process of bringing back samples from Mars will be a long one. The first part involves the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover launched in July which is currently halfway on its path to the planet. The Perseverance Rover equipped with a coring drill and sample tubes will store the rocks in collection tubes after extraction.

Few of the rocks collected will then be picked up by ESA’s “fetch” rover. The next process includes the ESA rover delivering the rock samples to the NASA-provided MARS Ascent vehicle, which will launch into Mars’ orbit. The process doesn’t end there as again ESA would come into play. An ESA-provided Earth Return Orbiter will take these samples from the MARS Ascent vehicle and then bring them back to the Blue planet sometime in the 2030s.

“Mars Sample Return is something NASA needs to do as a leading member of the global community,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We know there are challenges ahead, but that’s why we look closely at these architectures. And that’s why in the end, we achieve the big accomplishments.”

“Ultimately, I believe this sample return will be well worth the effort and help us answer key astrobiology questions about the red planet — bringing us one step closer to our eventual goal of sending humans to Mars.” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

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