The path forward for Mars Sample Return

Briefly, they are: do the science, do it now, and do it with balance. That is:

  • Return the full suite of samples collected by the Perseverance rover, don’t leave precious samples on the surface to shave proverbial pennies off the project’s cost;

  • Don’t delay; pursue the project now while we have samples on the surface of Mars, an experienced Mars workforce (already threatened by layoffs), and buy-in from our European allies, which have made a billion-euro-plus commitment to the effort;

  • And do it with balance; we can’t let MSR consume NASA’s entire science directorate. There are other missions, such as the Habitable Worlds Observatory, which are important priorities in their own right that will advance our search for life in the Cosmos.

There is also a compelling connection to NASA’s long-term human exploration effort, which starts with Artemis and then points toward Mars. MSR would provide critical proofs-of-concept of critical technologies, such as precision landing, launch from the Martian surface, and automated in-orbit rendezvous. NASA should consider MSR within its broader scope of human exploration, and integrate its planning and outcomes affordably.

The technical, engineering, and management challenges facing MSR are ultimately the responsibility of NASA and its partners. The Planetary Society believes that as long as NASA follows the principles outlined above and incorporates the input from the recent independent review board, that MSR and other high-priority science missions can succeed in the next decade.

Originally published at

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