May 25, 2024 at 9:33 am

NASA Wants To Bring Samples Back From Mars, But Unsuccessful Plans Are Costing Way Too Much Money

by Trisha Leigh

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NASA is pretty focused on all things Mars these days, and have set goals that, to reach them, require extensive knowledge of the planet.

They hoped to add to this knowledge by bringing back samples from the surface, but delays and rising costs are leading some to wonder whether the reward will be worth it.

That said, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a announcement that he was committed to the idea, and that many modifications to the mission were being considered.

The project is already over budget, clocking in at $11 billion as opposed to the estimated $8-$10 billion.

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Money is an issue, since NASA has an annual budget, and other projects and programs could suffer if they don’t get this one under control.

Still, with the possibility of finding life in those rocks, most don’t question its priority or importance.

Some worry, though, that the cumulative sacrifice might add up to too much, in the end.

“Mars Sample Return will be one of the most complex missions NASA has ever undertaken. The bottom line is, an $11 billion budget is too expensive, and a 2040 return date is too far away.”

You might expect NASA would have answers, but in this case, they’re still working on ways to make the mission less complex and more likely to succeed.

“Safely landing and collecting the samples, launching a rocket with the samples off another planet – which has never been done before – and safely transporting the samples more than 33 million miles back to Earth is no small task. We need to look outside the box to find a way ahead that is both affordable and returns samples in a reasonable timeframe.”

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They’re asking for help, interviewing 70 experts and making 20 changes to the mission design already.

One of them is to use two Ingenuity-type helicopters to retrieve the samples if Perseverance is no longer operational.

The new budget is $8-$11 billion, which is surely giving NASA scientists with other pending projects more than a little anxiety.

The projected return date of 2040 has not been changed as of now.

The main obstacle is simply the fact that we have never had a spacecraft take off from another planet, nevermind docking with an orbiting craft and returning things safely to Earth.

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Canceling the project altogether would mean a massive hit to both NASA’s ego and their worldwide prestige. Mars is, as we said up front, their stated priority and these samples are very important as far as data.

The Chinese Space Agency has said they believe they will be able to bring back Martian samples by 2031, almost a decade before NASA is claiming they’ll be able to accomplish the same.

In order to cut the timeframe, they’re likely going to need more money.

Stay tuned to see what happens next.

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