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NASA's Mars Rock Samples Won't Return To Earth Until 2033

By: April Carson

NASA's Mars rock samples, which were collected by the Curiosity rover in 2012 and are currently being stored on the planet, won't return to Earth until 2033. The sample-return mission plan has been enhanced to include two Mars landers instead of one.

Scientists will have to wait a little longer before they can acquire unadulterated Mars samples that may contain traces of Martian life from ancient times.

The delay is due to the complexities of the mission and the need for additional technology development, officials said. The two-mission plan will require more resources and funding but will provide a higher chance of success, they added.

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are collaborating to collect samples from Mars, which will be carried back to Earth by NASA's Perseverance rover on the floor of Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) basin.

According to NASA officials, Jezero is an excellent location for such work because it once housed a huge lake and a river delta that may have provided natural habitats for life billions of years ago.

The planned rover was intended to explore a dark, igneous-equivalent Martian surface. The rover would have descended to the planet's surface and collected samples in a sealed container with the 2026 launch of an ESA-built sample return lander (SRL) carrying a NASA Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). The fetch rover would collect the samples from Perseverance and carry them back to the MAV for deployment into Mars orbit. Up there, the sample container will be delivered to an ESA Earth-return orbiter (ERO), which will return it to Earth in 2031.

NASA officials wrote in a description of the agency's allocations in the White House's 2023 federal budget request that "Detailed analysis of SRL landed mass requirements has led NASA to adopt a dual-lander architecture, with the second lander carrying the European-provided fetch rover." That proposal, which still must be approved by Congress, finances NASA $26 billion for the 2023 financial year, which starts on Oct. 1.

"The construction of a second lander will require a shift to a 2028 launch date and a 2033 sample return date, which is in accordance with the Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board's (IRB) recommendation that a two-lander setup may boost mission success," they continued.

According to the budget papers, the ERO deployment has been delayed from 2026 to 2027. "The delay is due to the need for a new, more capable rover that will be able to collect and cache samples for later return to Earth," the document reads.

The budget request dedicates $822 million to Mars sample return in fiscal year 2023, up from the previous year's request of $672 million. The raise isn't coming at a time when the rest of the Planetary Science portfolio is being pressured; it's putting pressure on the rest of the portfolio and may have an impact on future balances.

"This is a flagship mission for NASA, and we are committed to ensuring it's successful," Bridenstine said in a statement.

In other words, the additional funds required for Mars sample return influenced NASA's decision to postpone the launch of its NEO (near-Earth object) Surveyor mission by two years and terminate funding for the international Mars Ice Mapper project, according to agency representatives.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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