NASA Mars Sample Return: The NASA has finally got a go ahead for Mars Sample Return campaign! The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced that an independent review has given it the go-ahead to carry out the Mars Sample Return (MRS) campaign so that samples from the Red planet can be brought back to the Earth to be studied. An Independent Review Board (IRB) had been formed by the agency to look into the concepts involved in the mission, which is being carried out in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). It would mark the first-ever attempt to bring samples from another planet.
After the review, the board decided that the NASA was prepared to undertake the campaign. A major point in its favour was the extensive advanced research and multiple missions NASA has conducted on the Red planet as a part of its Mars exploration mission.
How will samples be collected from Mars and returned to Earth?
To successfully complete the mission, the NASA would need the help from three space vehicles. The first is the Perseverance Rover, which was launched in July and is already over halfway through its journey towards the neighbouring planet. The rover has on board a sophisticated sampling system, as per NASA, which includes a coring drill and sample tubes. Once it lands on the surface of the Red planet, the rover would attempt to cache rock and regolith samples in the collection tubes, some of which would then be left on the surface of Mars.
After that, a fetch rover provided by the ESA would collect the tubes and deliver them to a Mars Ascent Vehicle of NASA. This vehicle would launch samples into the orbit around Mars, where an Earth Return Orbiter of ESA would collect and store them in a highly secure capsule to return them to Earth in the next decade.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the mission is something the space agency has to do as a leader of the space community in the world. Jim added that while they know that the mission is challenging, that was why it looked at these architectures closely, and therefore, accomplished big things.
Mars has long been an object of fascination among various space agencies because of its proximity to the Earth and the presence of water on the Red planet, indicating the possibility that the planet once had life. With the soil samples and their subsequent study, the agency hopes to find clues about the conditions on the planet when possible life existed.