NASA is planning to bring back the rock samples taken by the Mars Perseverance Rover. The Mars rover has successfully obtained rock samples, and will bring them back to Earth for further research.
The Perseverance Rover successfully drilled out a piece of rock core from Mars on September 1st. An article from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory describes the full plan going forward.
“Mars Sample Return is a multi-mission campaign designed to retrieve the cores Perseverance will collect over the next several years. Currently, in the concept design and technology development phase, the campaign is one of the most ambitious endeavors in spaceflight history, involving multiple spacecraft, multiple launches, and dozens of government agencies.”
The long awaited mission to return Martian rocks to Earth is the closest it has ever been to finishing. “Returning a sample from Mars has been a priority for the planetary science community since the 1980s, and the potential opportunity to finally realize this goal has unleashed a torrent of creativity,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program based at NASA Headquarters in Washington.”
NASA’s Mars mission has been one of the longest, most memorable missions that have and will continue to serve as a beacon for all in the world of exobiology. “I have dreamed of having Mars samples to analyze since I was a graduate student,” said Meenakshi Wadhwa, principal scientist for the Mars Sample Return program, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The collection of these well-documented samples will eventually allow us to analyze them in the best laboratories here on Earth once they are returned.”
However, success in this mission doesn’t mean that it has to stop here. In the future, NASA plans to explore the possibility of previous life on Mars, along with the possibility of sustaining new life on the Red Planet.
“Billions of years ago the Red Planet may have had a cozy environment for life that thrives in warm and wet conditions. However, it’s highly unlikely that NASA will bring back samples with living Martian organisms, based on decades of data from orbiters, landers, and rovers at Mars. Instead, scientists are hoping to find fossilized organic matter or other signs of ancient microbial life,” says the article from the JPL.
Although the chances of bringing back new discoveries are low, the success of the rover mission is a message of hope and of progress. While it may not be the ideal outcome the first time, we can only wish for continued success.