In DepthPlanetary Science

Bold plan to retrieve Mars samples takes shape

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Science  22 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6468, pp. 932-933
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6468.932

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Summary

In just over 1 decade, a small capsule shaped like a flying saucer could blaze in from space and smash into an empty Utah desert. Its payload would be momentous: less than 1 kilogram of rocks gathered on Mars. After years as a dream, Mars sample return is now a $7 billion plan, devised jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). It is a complicated plan, involving three heavy rocket launches from Earth, two rovers, the first ever rocket launch from another planet, and a daring space rendezvous between a sample container and a spacecraft that would ferry it back to Earth. The first element, NASA's Mars 2020 rover, is nearly built and ready for launch next summer. And now, NASA and the Europeans are close to finalizing the plans to bring the samples collected by Mars 2020 home, with ESA likely to commit funding to the work at a meeting later this month.

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