Mars sample return mission
A Mars sample return mission (MSR) would be a spaceflight mission to collect rock and dust samples from Mars and to return them to Earth. Sample return is very powerful type of exploration, because analysis is freed from the time, budget, and space constraints of spacecraft sensors. All of Earth's laboratories can potentially study a sample.
According to Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, Mars sample return is often described by the planetary science community as the "holy grail" of robotic space missions, due to its high expected scientific return-on-investment.
Over time several missions were planned but none of the proposed missions got beyond the planning phase. The three latest proposals for a MSR mission are a NASA-ESA proposal, a Russian proposal, Mars-Grunt, and a Chinese proposal.
MSR was highest priority in the Planetary Decadal Survey 2013-2022: The Future of Planetary Science.
The return of Mars samples would be beneficial to science by allowing more extensive analysis to be undertaken of the samples than could be done by instruments painstakingly transferred to Mars. Also, the presence of the samples on Earth would allow scientific equipment to be used on stored samples, even years and decades after the sample return mission.
In 2006, MEPAG identified 55 important future science investigations related to the exploration of Mars. In 2008, they concluded that about half of the investigations "could be addressed to one degree or another by MSR", making MSR "the single mission that would make the most progress towards the entire list" of investigations. Moreover, it was found that a significant fraction of the investigations cannot be meaningfully advanced without returned samples.
For at least three decades, scientists have advocated the return of geological samples from Mars. One mission was originally planned to return samples by 2008, but was canceled following a review of the program. A NASA-ESA plan was aborted in 2012.
SCIM ("Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars") was a low-cost low-risk Mars sample return mission design, proposed in the Mars Scout Program. SCIM would return dust and air samples without landing or orbiting, by dipping through the atmosphere as it collects Mars material. It uses heritage from the successful Stardust and Genesis sample return missions.
In mid-2006, the international Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples (iMARS) Working Group was chartered by the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG) to outline the scientific and engineering requirements of an internationally sponsored and executed Mars sample return mission in the 2018–2023 time frame.
In October 2009, NASA and ESA established the Mars Joint Exploration Initiative to proceed with the ExoMars mission, whose ultimate aim is "the return of samples from Mars in the 2020s". A first step in this was one particular proposal, a joint project between NASA and ESA called ExoMars, would launch in 2018 with unspecified missions to return the sample itself expected in the 2020-2022 time frame. The cancellation of the caching rover MAX-C and later NASA withdrawal from ExoMars, pushed back a sample return mission to an undetermined date.
Due to budget limitations the MAX-C mission, which was the first NASA-ESA mission leading to a MSR, was canceled in 2011 and the overall plan in 2012. The pull-out was described as "traumatic" for the science community.
In September 2012, NASA announced plans to further study several strategies of returning a sample of Mars to Earth - including a multiple launch scenario, a single launch scenario and a multiple rovers scenario - for a mission beginning as early as 2018.
Solar-electric propulsion might allow a sample return by launching all elements in a single launch.[clarification needed] By using a Hall thruster powered by solar energy, less propellant would be needed, allowing the lander and return spacecraft to be launched together.
In this scenario, the sample return mission would span two launches at an interval of about four years. The first launch would be for the orbiter, the second for the lander. The rest of the mission would follow in the same way as the one-element mission design.
According to JPL's Mars Exploration Program manager Fuk Li, a consensus is now forming for a sample return mission split into a total of three launches. In this scenario, the sample-collection rover (e.g. MAX-C) would be launched separately first land on Mars, and carry out analyses and sample collection over a lifetime of at least 500 Sols (Martian days).
Four years later, the orbiter would be launched, followed by the lander including the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). Instead of a full-blown sample-collection rover, the lander would bring a smaller, simple "fetch rover", whose sole function would be to retrieve the sample container from the sample-collection rover, and return it to the lander where it would be loaded onto the MAV.
This design would ease the schedule of the whole mission, giving controllers time to carry out the required operations. Furthermore, by spreading the landed mass across two payloads (the sample-collection rover and the lander), the program could rely on the successful landing system developed for the Mars Science Laboratory, avoiding the costs and risks associated with developing and testing yet another landing system from scratch.
France has worked towards a sample return for many years. This included the preparation of laboratories for returned samples, and numerous proposals. They worked on the development of a Mars sample return orbiter, which would capture and return the samples as part of a joint mission with either the United States, or other European countries.
||It has been suggested that Concerns for an early Mars sample return be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since June 2013.|
Back contamination concerns were originally raised by Carl Sagan, and Carl Woese. More recently they have been raised by the International Committee Against Mars Sample Return. The Planetary Protection Office has issued recommendations to deal with these issues. NASA has addressed these concerns with plans to build a special new type of biohazard containment facility to receive the samples, and to sterilize the outside of the container used.
However some concerned scientists feel that the proposed precautions to prevent back contamination do not go far enough, at this stage of knowledge on Mars. They advocate more in situ investigations on Mars first.
When the entire biosphere hangs in the balance, it is adventuristic to the extreme to bring Martian life here. Sure, there is a chance it would do no harm; but that is not the point. Unless you can rule out the chance that it might do harm, you should not embark on such a course.
There is general agreement in the literature on the subject that, though the potential for large-scale negative effects appears to be very low, it is not demonstrably zero, and the samples should be treated as biohazards until sample analysis demonstrates the samples are not biohazardous to the environment of Earth.
It is also generally agreed that a full and open public debate of the back contamination issues is needed before any sample return. This is also a legal requirement. See Concerns for an early Mars sample return
There are plans to add miniaturized scanning electron microscopes to the rovers. Also miniature DNA sequencers. This has the advantage over Mars sample return that you can analyse rocks in situ on Mars, and then choose new targets on the surface of Mars based on your findings.
- Concerns for an early Mars sample return
- Fobos-Grunt - a failed Russian sample return mission destined for Phobos, a Martian moon
- Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher -rover (cancelled)
- Mars meteorite
- Trieman, et al - Groundbreaking Sample Return from Mars: The Next Giant Leap in Understanding the Red Planet
- Solar System Exploration
- Mars Sample Return (from the NASA website. Accessed 2008-05-26.)
- Space Studies Board, National Research Council (2011). "Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022". National Academies Press. p. 6‑21.
- Return to Mars. National Geographic Magazine, August 1998 issue
- International cooperation called key to planet exploration
- Shirley, Donna. "Mars Exploration Program Strategy: 1995-2020". American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- Mars Planning Group Endorses Sample Return
- Summary of the Final Report
- Jones, S.M. et al. (2008). "Ground Truth From Mars (2008) - Mars Sample Return at 6 Kilometers per Second: Practical, Low Cost, Low Risk, and Ready". USRA. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
- Wadhwa, et al - SCIM (2012)
- "NASA and ESA Establish a Mars Exploration Joint Initiative". NASA. July 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
- "Planetary Science Decadal Survey: MSR Lander Mission" (PDF). JPL. NASA. April 2010. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- Date set for Mars sample mission BBC News
- "Mars Sample Return: bridging robotic and human exploration". European Space Agency. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
- Wall, Mike (September 27, 2012). "Bringing Pieces of Mars to Earth: How NASA Will Do It". Space.com. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
- Dr. David Y. Oh, et al. -Single Launch Architecture for Potential Mars Sample Return Mission Using Electric Propulsion (2009) - JPL/Caltech(.pdf)
- Strategic Technology Development for Future Mars Missions (2013-2022) (PDF) 15 September 2009
- 'Bringing back Mars life' MSNBC News, February 24, 2010 by Alan Boyle.
- Roscosmos - Space missions Published by The Space Review (page 9) on 2010
- by Dwayne A. DayMonday, November 28, 2011 (2011-11-28). "'Red Planet blues (Monday, November 28, 2011)". The Space Review. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "Russia takes a two-pronged approach to space exploration". Russia & India Report. April 18, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- Russia To Study Martian Moons Once Again. Mars Daily July 15, 2008.
- Major provisions of the Russian Federal Space Program for 2006-2015. "1 spacecraft for Mars research and delivery of Martian soil to the Earth."
- English.news.cn (2012-10-10). "China considers more Mars probes before 2030". news.xinhuanet.com. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- Staff Writers Beijing (AFP) (2012-10-10). "China to collect samples from Mars by 2030: Xinhua". marsdaily.com. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- Counil, J.; Bonneville, R.; Rocard, F. -The french involvement in Mars sample return program
- Carl Sagan,The Cosmic Connection - an Extraterrestrial Perspective
- International Committee Against Mars Sample Return
- Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations(1997)
- Carl Woese The Birth of the Archaea: a Personal Retrospective
- Barry E. DiGregorio The dilemma of Mars sample return August 2001 Vol. 31, No. 8, pp 18–27. - for the quote from Carl Woese see his reference 54
- "Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions", National Research Council, 2009, chapter 5, "The Potential for Large-Scale Effects". "Thus, a key question posed to the committe is whether a putative martian organism or organisms, inadvertently released from containment, could produce large-scale negative pathogenic effects in humans or have a destructive impact on Earth's ecological system or environments." (page 45) They divide it into 3 categories
- Large-scale negative pathogenic effects in humans;
- Destructive impacts on Earth's ecological systems or environments; and
- Toxic and other effects attributable to microbes, their cellular structures, or extracellular products.
They conclude that the last one is unlikely. But for the other twoThe committee found that the potential for large-scale negative effects on Earth's inhabitants or environment by a returned martian life form appears to be low, but is not demonstrably zero.
- Mars Sample Return backward contamination - strategic advice (Report). European Science Foundation. 2012. http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2013/01/17/ESF_Mars_Sample_Return_backward_contamination_study.pdf. "RECOMMENDATION 10: Considering the global nature of the issue, consequences resulting from an unintended release could be borne by a larger set of countries than those involved in the programme. It is recommended that mechanisms dedicated to ethical and social issues of the risks and benefits raised by an MSR are set up at the international level and are open to representatives of all countries."
- Mars Sample Return backward contamination – Strategic advice and requirements see 7.2: Responsibility and liability of States
- Gaskin, J.A.; Jerman, G.; Gregory, D.; Sampson, A.R., Miniature Variable Pressure Scanning Electron Microscope for in-situ imaging & chemical analysis Aerospace Conference, 2012 IEEE , vol., no., pp.1,10, 3–10 March 2012 doi: 10.1109/AERO.2012.6187064
- Mars Sample Return Mission? Naaah… Just Beam Back Martian DNA
- Biomedicine News Genome Hunters Go After Martian DNA
- ESA's Mars Sample Return page
- Mars Sample Return Lander Mission Profile by NASA's Solar System Exploration
- "ESA Open to Mars Sample Return". ABC News. 2007-09-27.