This is Where the Mars Sample Return Mission Could be Landing

NASA’s Perseverance Rover is busy exploring Jezero Crater on Mars. Part of its mission is to collect samples for retrieval by a future mission. NASA and the ESA haven’t determined where the sample return mission will land yet.

That depends on the Perseverance mission and how it spends the rest of its time on Mars. But we know of one possible—albeit ambitious—landing spot: just west of Jezero Crater.

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NASA is Already Designing Hardware for a Mars Sample Return Mission

Testing is key to the success of any space mission, and the more complex the mission, the more testing is required to complete it successfully.  The Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission is one of the most ambitious missions ever undertaken.  It started with the Perseverance rover, which is currently exploring Jezero crater while occasionally stopping to fill sample bottles with interesting material.  But the more impressive engineering feat is what happens next. NASA plans to launch a combination lander, rover, and ascent rocket that will land on the Martian surface, pick up the sample containers Perseverance has left behind, sterilize them, launch them back into space, and then return them to Earth.  

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Perseverance is About to Collect the First Sample on Mars That Could Eventually be Returned to Earth

On Feb. 18th, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed within the Jezero Crater on Mars. Like its predecessor, Curiosity, a fellow member of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (MEP), the goal of Perseverance is to seek out evidence of possible life on Mars (past and present). A key part of this mission will be the first sample return ever performed on Mars, where samples obtained by Perseverance will be placed in a cache for later retrieval and return to Earth.

For the past five months, mission controllers at NASA have been driving the rover further from where it landed (Octavia E. Butler Landing Site) and conducting test flights with the Ingenuity helicopter. NASA is now in the midst of making final preparations for Perseverance to collect its first sample of Martian rock. This historic first is expected to begin by the end of the month or by early August and will culminate with the return of the samples to Earth by 2031.

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