NASA is preparing for a big announcement about Mars

NASA is preparing for a big announcement about Mars

A NASA press conference is scheduled to be held next Monday (15), during which the future of the Mars sample return mission will be revealed (Mars sample return) to ground.

Update: This has been announced and includes a re-adjustment of the mission to Mars. See all the details.

Let's understand:

  • NASA landed the Perseverance rover on Mars in February 2021;
  • The main function of the equipment is to collect samples of Martian rocks and soil;
  • The rover already has 24 samples stored in collection tubes;
  • The materials stored by the probe must be brought to Earth in 2033, in a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • It turns out that with the gradual budget cuts the agency is experiencing in North America, the mission may be in jeopardy;
  • This means that Perseverance's collection work may have been in vain, and the titanium tubes containing the samples may be left forever on the Red Planet.
An artistic representation of the Mars Sample Return Mission, planned to bring samples from Mars to Earth in 2033. Source: NASA/ESA NASA/JPL-Caltech

Returning samples from Mars has been a major long-term goal of international planetary exploration over the past two decades. The Perseverance rover is collecting compelling scientific samples that will help scientists understand the geological history of Mars, the evolution of its climate, and prepare for future human explorers. The returned samples will also help in the search for signs of ancient life.

NASA, in a statement.

Read more:

Returning samples from Mars is an ambitious mission for NASA

In September of last year, Research Ethics Committee NASA (IRB) provided a report (you can read it in full here) in which he says the task is not achievable within the scope presented, which contains “unrealistic budget and schedule expectations from the beginning.” The document also refers to a “heavy structure” and states that the program “is not structured to be implemented effectively.”

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For 2024, nearly half a billion dollars in funding has been cut from the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees specifically for this effort. NASA also reduced investment in the mission and laid off a significant number of workers and collaborators at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is leading this work.

One of the Mars sample tubes placed by the Perseverance rover in a “deposit” in Jezero Crater. Credit: NASA

All of this has raised some concerns that the mission could be cancelled, leaving Perseverance-filled cans useless on the surface of Mars. it will be? And that's exactly what NASA will talk about in this afternoon's press conference, which you can watch In this linkFrom 2 pm (Brasilia time).

Considered ambitious, and Current plan It expects an orbital launch in 2027, a lander launch in 2028, and the arrival of the original Mars samples to Earth in 2033. The hope is to rethink this timeline so that all the work is not lost.

The press call will share the agency's recommendations on a path forward for Mars sample return within a comprehensive, balanced science program. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Science Mission Director Nikki Fox, who is also the agency's associate administrator, will be present.

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