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South Pole Aitken Basin Sample Return
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South Pole Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission to Earth's Moon

Goals: This mission concept calls for robotic technology to gather samples from the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin and return them to Earth for study. The Aitken Basin, a massive impact crater on the Moon's far side, may provide access to samples of the lunar mantle, which could give scientists insight into the period of heavy bombardment early in our solar system's history.

Accomplishments: This mission is a concept proposed to accomplish one of several high-priority science investigations recommended by the National Research Council. NASA will choose one concept to be developed as a New Frontiers program mission.

Key Dates
This is a mission concept. No launch date has been determined yet.
Fast Facts
LABSR Facts In 1970, the Soviet Union's Luna 16 (right) was the first robotic spacecraft to send samples back from the Moon.

Although it was a robotic first, America's Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts collected and returned lunar samples before it arrived.

The Moon's south pole is also intriguing because ot the possibility it harbors water-ice in permanently shadowed craters.
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Last Updated: 24 Jan 2011