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Mars Sample Return
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Mars Sample Return
Mars Sample Return Mission to Mars

Goals: This unmanned mission concept would use a variety of spacecraft on the surface and in orbit with the ultimate goal of returning Martian soil samples to Earth. The current proposed campaign calls for a set of three missions:

  • First a robotic rover would collect a cache of samples.
  • Then a lander and "fetch rover" would recover the cache and launch the samples into Mars orbit.
  • Ultimately, an orbiter would return the samples to Earth for analysis in a secure containment facility.

Accomplishments: This mission is a concept only.

Key Dates
This is a mission concept. No launch date has been determined yet.
Fast Facts
Mars Sample Return Facts A joint Mars exploration program between NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) has set a long term focus of the return of samples from Mars to Earth.

The current proposed campaign calls for a set of three missions.

The Soviet Union's Luna program pioneered the field of robotic sample return. The Luna 16 mission to Earth's Moon was the first successful robotic sample return.

No spacecraft has returned samples from the surface of another planet, though meteorites from Mars have been found on Earth (above).

Scientists on Earth can make a more thorough analysis of samples than can be made on a distant planet.
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Last Updated: 30 Nov 2010