Bits of an Alien World Are Coming to Earth and NASA Just Decided How to Handle Them

Mars Sample Receiving Project to be based at the Johnson Space Center 11 photos
Photo: NASA
Mars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation videoMars Sample Return animation video
Humanity has been sending rovers and other types of gear to Mars for a pretty long time now. Yet all of them were intended to conduct science on the spot, with humans watching from many hundreds of thousands of miles away. The still-new Perseverance will help us do things a bit differently.
Having arrived on location on Mars in February 2021, the most recent NASA rover on Mars went about its many missions for a while and then, in December last year, started dropping small cylinders in various places on the planet.

The rover is not falling apart, but doing this on purpose. The cylinders contain soil samples collected by Perseverance. They will have to be transported back to Earth by a subsequent mission called Mars Sample Return, effectively bringing portions of the Red Planet back to our own so we could have a closer, proper look at what’s there.

Mars Sample Return is still being planned, and won’t happen before very close to the end of the decade, but the American space agency has already started making preparation on where to store, how to handle, and how to disperse the samples around the globe for study.

This week, NASA said it has decided on the place that should become the main hub for Martian samples, and that’s the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

A so-called Mars Sample Receiving Project office will be created there as part of the Center’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science division. That’s the organization that has been historically in charge of storing and handling pieces of alien worlds, from as far back as the days of the Apollo program.

The place will be tasked with receiving the samples coming from Mars, but also with safely handling and properly distributing them to laboratories across the world for study. In the time left until the samples start getting here, NASA will have to come up with the methods needed to actually recover and transfer the samples, contain and assess them, but also with ways to coordinate the science conducted on them.

At the time of writing, the Mars Sample Return mission is scheduled to take off in 2027, when the Earth Return Orbiter will head for the Red Planet. This piece of hardware will remain in orbit.

In 2028, the mission’s lander and ascent vehicle will depart. After arrival they will set down on the surface to collect the samples Perseverance had collected. Once that is done, the ascent vehicle will lift off and meet with the Return Orbiter to transfer the samples and send them back to Earth.

All of the above will take quite some time, as the samples of Martian soil are not expected back sooner than 2033.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
Press Release
About the author: Daniel Patrascu
Daniel Patrascu profile photo

Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories