NASA wants to bring samples of Mars to Earth.
Over the year four rovers have been sent to Mars, the agency says that their ambition is to return a sample to Earth from the Red Planet.
NASA’s 2020 Mars rover will also land in early 2021 to explore the delta of an ancient river.
Alongside its own scientific goals, it will collect and store soil samples in pen-sized canisters, ready for a future pick up and return to Earth.
Like the return of Moon rocks to Earth, bringing back samples of Mars will be a defining moment in space exploration.
In this first Mars Sample Return mission, around 500 grams of material could be collected from diverse sites.
Once returned to Earth, the samples would be curated in special facilities, ensuring compliance with planetary protection requirements.
Bringing samples back to Earth will facilitate studies that are simply not possible in the miniaturised rover laboratories – however sophisticated – and, perhaps more importantly, will enable future discoveries as analytical techniques improve over time.