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New plan needed to return rocks from Mars, NASA says

  • April 16, 2024
  • 2 min read
New plan needed to return rocks from Mars, NASA says

NASA will go through a major overhaul in its quest to bring rock samples from Mars to Earth to study them for traces of past life. The American space agency says that current mission designs could not bring the materials to Earth before 2040 on the existing budget and the $11 billion (£9 billion) it would need to make it happen sooner is not sustainable. It will canvas ideas for a cheaper and faster alternative, hoping for a solution to be on the drawing board later this year.  

Bringing rock samples from Mars has been considered to be the most important priority in planetary exploration for decades. When the Apollo astronauts bough Moon rocks  to Earth, it revolutionised our understanding of the solar system and its history. Materials from our neighbour may similarly recast much of our thinking about the viability of life on other worlds besides our own.

However, the way it has gone about it is unrealistic, NASA acknowledges, with its current fiscal situation.

“The bottom line is that $11bn is too expensive, and not returning samples until 2040 is unacceptably too long,” Nasa administrator Bill Nelson told reporters in a Monday teleconference. The former senator said that he would not allow other NASA missions to be “cannibalised” by the Mars project and is asking for some new ideas from within NASA and the industry.

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