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

NASA’s Next Mars Rover Should Collect Samples, Experts Say

by Mike Wall, SPACE Senior Writer
Date: 05 December 2012 Time: 07:00 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO — The unmanned rover that NASA plans to launch toward Mars in 2020 should gather up Red Planet rocks and dirt for delivery to Earth someday, some experts say.

NASA science chief John Grunsfeld announced the new rover here Tuesday (Dec. 4) at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Details of the roughly $1.5 billion mission have yet to be worked out, but some big names in the Mars community are already pushing hard for a sample caching system.

“I hope and expect that its main mission will be to collect and cache a well-chosen set of samples for eventual return to Earth,” Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, told SPACE.com via email.

“This was clearly identified as the top priority for Mars exploration by the recent Planetary Decadal Survey, and this 2020 rover has the potential to do that job,” Squyres added, referring to a 2011 report by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC) that outlines the scientific community’s goals for planetary science over the coming decade. Squyres led the committee that produced the survey.

Read more: NASA's Next Mars Rover Should Collect Samples, Experts Say | 2020 Rover | Space.

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