Pasadena, CA (December 21, 2020) — The Planetary Society, the world’s largest independent space interest organization, issued the following statements praising the official start of the Mars Sample Return project:
The Planetary Society welcomes the formal start of the Mars Sample Return project and praises both NASA and ESA for committing to this grand challenge. This is the most daring series of robotic missions ever attempted: the first roundtrip voyage to Mars.
Returning a carefully curated set of samples from the Martian surface has been a goal of Mars scientists for over half a century. NASA’s Perseverance rover, set to land in February, will take the first step toward this goal by preparing dozens of samples on the surface of Mars.
The next step, which NASA and ESA have both now committed to, is a mission to retrieve those samples, launch them to Mars orbit, and then bring them back to Earth by early next decade.
Upon their delivery to Earth, these samples can be studied with the most advanced equipment known to science, and in the future by new techniques and new instrumentation we have yet to dream of. It will also provide valuable insight into how to safely return humans from Mars. The payoff from these missions will span generations.
The coming years are a crucial period of technology development and design that lay the foundation for mission success. In order to ensure the project’s adherence to schedule and cost estimates, and therefore maintain a balanced planetary science program, we urge Congress and the incoming Biden administration to provide the necessary resources at this early stage.
Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, President of The Planetary Society, added:
"It is exciting that this challenging, path-breaking planetary science mission has formally begun. Analysis of these Martian rocks in Earth labs will unlock so many of the mysteries around Mars' climate and evolution, and perhaps even provide insights into the question of life beyond Earth."
Interviews with The Planetary Society's planetary scientists, space policy experts, and leadership are available upon request. Please arrange with Danielle Gunn, chief communications officer, at [email protected]
We invite you to use content from our website to support your storytelling. We appreciate credit and links back to us when appropriate:
- Reference: Your Guide to Mars Sample Return
- Article: After the Success of InSight, It’s Time for NASA to Commit to Mars Sample Return (2018)
- Press Statement: Planetary Society Statement on NASA’s Intentions to Pursue a Sample Return Mission from Mars (2017)
- Infographic free for media use: How Mars Sample Return works
About The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.