ESA and NASA to Bring Samples of Martian Soil to Earth

Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 12:46

The European Space Agency (ESA) and The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have signed a statement of intent to explore concepts for missions to bring samples of martian soil to Earth.

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalyzed as laboratory techniques continue to improve, ESA reports.

The statement signed today at the ILA Berlin air show by ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker, and NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, outlines the potential roles each space agency could fulfil and how they can offer mutual support.

“There is no question that for a planetary scientist, the chance to bring pristine, carefully chosen samples of the Red Planet back to Earth for examination using the best facilities is a mouth-watering prospect. Reconstructing the history of Mars and answering questions of its past are only two areas of discovery that will be dramatically advanced by such a mission,” said David.

“The challenges of going to Mars and back demand that they are addressed by an international and commercial partnership – the best of the best. At ESA, with our 22 member states and further cooperating partners, international cooperation is part of our DNA.”

“Previous Mars missions revealed ancient streambeds and the right chemistry that could have supported microbial life on the Red Planet,” said Thomas, “a sample would provide a critical leap forward in our understanding of Mars’s potential to harbour life.

“I look forward to connecting and collaborating with international and commercial partners on tackling the exciting technological challenges ahead—that would allow us to bring home a sample of Mars.”

The results of the mission studies will be presented at ESA’s council at ministerial level in 2019 for a decision to continue developing these missions.

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