The Planetary Society Praises the Start of Mars Sample Return

"This is the most daring series of robotic missions ever attempted: the first roundtrip voyage to Mars."

Press Statement
December 20, 2020

Danielle Gunn
Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

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."

Press Resources

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About The Planetary Society

With a global community of more than 2 million space enthusiasts, The Planetary Society is the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization. Founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman and today led by CEO Bill Nye, we empower the public to take a meaningful role in advancing space exploration through advocacy, education outreach, scientific innovation, and global collaboration. Together with our members and supporters, we’re on a mission to explore worlds, find life off Earth, and protect our planet from dangerous asteroids. To learn more, visit