This artist’s concept shows a sample of Martian rocks and soil blasting off the Red Planet’s surface, destined for scientists’ labs here on Earth. CREDIT: NASA/JPL


Bringing Pieces of Mars to Earth: How NASA Will Do It

by Mike Wall, Senior WriterDate: 27 September 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

Over the next few months, NASA will map out a strategy for returning bits of Martian rock and soil to Earth, so scientists can study them for signs of past Red Planet life.

That ambitious goal should drive the space agency’s next steps at Mars, according to a report released Tuesday (Sept. 25) by the Mars Program Planning Group. The report also lays out several ways Mars sample-return can be accomplished over the next decade or two, and NASA is reviewing those options now.

The agency may reveal its chosen path in February, after the White House releases its federal budget request for fiscal year 2014, NASA officials said Tuesday. In the meantime, here’s a brief rundown of the scenarios they’re looking at.

Read more: Bringing Mars Samples to Earth: How NASA Will Do It |

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