NASA working on a simpler, cheaper and quicker way to bring back samples from Mars


NASA's quest to bring back rock samples from Mars to Earth to study traces of any existence of life is going through a huge overhaul.

The US space agency has said that the mission which has been currently planned won't be able to bring the rocks before 2040 on the basis of the existing funds and the $11 billion needed to make the plan successful sooner is not sustainable.

Hence, now the space agency is looking for cheaper and faster alternatives and they are planning to have a solution on their drawing board by the end of the year.

In planetary exploration, the return of rock samples from Mars is seen as an important step


Similar to how the rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts from the Moon helped scientists revolutionise the early Solar System's understanding, the rocks from the Red Planet may help understand the possibilities of life beyond Earth.

NASA has now accepted that its plan to bring back the samples from Mars is simply unrealistic in the current fiscal environment.

Speaking to the reporters during a Monday teleconference, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, "The bottom line is that $11bn is too expensive, and not returning samples until 2040 is unacceptably too long."

The former US senator stated that he will not let other agency science missions be "cannibalised" by the ongoing Mars project


NASA in search of 'out-of-the-box possibilities'

  • Hence, NASA administrator Bill Nelson is now finding fresh ways to bring back rock samples from Mars.
  • The Mars Sample Return (MSR) programme is NASA's joint endeavour with the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • The programme is already carried out and the rock samples to be brought back to Earth are being collected and catalogued on Mars by NASA's Perseverance rover
  • Later this decade, a follow-up mission was due to be launched which will carry a rocket to the surface of Mars.
  • Director of NASA's science directorate Dr Nicola Fox said, "We are looking at out-of-the-box possibilities that could return the samples earlier and at a lower cost."

"This is definitely a very ambitious goal, and we're going to need to go after some very innovative new possibilities for design, and certainly leave no stone unturned. Those new possibilities could include a smaller, simpler rocket," she added.