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TechnologyNASA Rethinks Mars Sample Return Program to Cut Costs and Speed Up...

NASA Rethinks Mars Sample Return Program to Cut Costs and Speed Up Rock Delivery


NASA's New Plan For Mars Samples Returns Aims For Faster, Cheaper Mission

NASA administrator Bill Nelson recently announced that the agency's long planned Mars Sample Return program would need to be redesigned, as the current and timeline were deemed too costly and drawn out. The project, which aims to retrieve rock and soil samples previously collected on Mars by the Perseverance rover and return them to Earth for detailed analysis, was estimated to cost around $11 billion and not return samples until the 2040s.

However, bringing pieces of the Red Planet back to labs on Earth holds tremendous scientific value, shedding light on Mars' geology and potential for past life. An independent review last year also highlighted technical challenges facing the complex multi-step mission. As such, NASA is now looking at innovative options to complete the sample retrieval in a more affordable and swifter manner.

Nelson stated the agency must think outside the box to develop a plan within budget constraints that returns samples within a reasonable timeframe. Currently envisioned to involve cooperation between NASA and ESA, with European rockets launching sample canisters off Mars for the U.S. to retrieve, the architecture is under reevaluation. NASA has tasked internal teams and private industry partners to submit fresh proposal concepts focusing on proven technologies that could slash costs and risks while accelerating the mission schedule into the 2030s.

The goal is to restructure Sample Return using the hard lessons learned from past large missions. Any new design would still accomplish the pivotal science objective of bringing carefully selected Mars rocks to Earth for exhaustive testing beyond what rover instruments can perform remotely. Analyzing diverse samples directly could profoundly impact understanding of Mars' atmosphere and climate history plus whether it ever hosted microbial life, illuminating how life emerges across the cosmos. NASA remains committed to pursuing this transformational undertaking through an optimized approach ensuring planetary exploration continues pushing scientific frontiers for generations to come.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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