NASA asks the public to comment on an environmental assessment for its Mars sample return effort.
A collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) aims to bring to Earth samples gathered by the Perseverance Mars rover, perhaps as early as 2033. Once they’re here, scientists in labs worldwide will scrutinize them for signs of Mars life and clues about the Red Planet’s evolutionary history.
Artist’s conception for a proposed NASA Sample Retrieval Lander would take a small rocket called the Mars Ascent Vehicle to the surface of the Red Planet.
“Meetings will also cover why the Utah Test and Training Range operated by the U.S. Air Force is the proposed landing site for the samples and what planners are doing to ensure safe and secure return of the samples — a topic known as backward planetary protection,” the agency added.
Public comments will be considered during the development of the Mars sample return draft environmental impact statement, which will be released for public comment in 2022 if the schedule holds, NASA officials said.
Adding a second lander to the process pushes the proposed launch date by two years to 2028, with the samples’ arrival on Earth delayed to 2033 from 2031.
NASA officials said that the revised plan “is consistent with the Mars Sample Return Independent Review Board’s (IRB) finding that a dual-lander architecture may improve the probability of mission success.”