Scientists studying Mars have wanted pieces of the Red Planet here on Earth for decades, and they are finally getting their shot at designing a mission to acquire such souvenirs.
The Apollo program’s legacy of carefully collected moon rocks here on Earth reshaped the science of the moon and Earth alike. A Mars sample-return mission could offer the same sort of potential, but the Red Planet is a more daunting target than the moon. More daunting but well worth the effort, Brian Muirhead, who is leading the effort to develop a Mars sample-return mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in a presentation here at the 70th International Astronautical Congress.
“It’s the consensus of science community today,” Muirhead said, “that if we’re going to answer the hardest questions about Mars — like, for example, whether life showed up on Mars — we’re going to need to bring material from Mars to our terrestrial laboratories.”
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