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Monday, 21 May 2018 01:00

NASA plans to transfer rock and soil samples from Mars to Earth

NASA rover NASA rover.

NASA is willing to collect and transfer soil and rock samples from Mars to Earth.

Their examination will provide the necessary data to investigate the Martian history. The probability of Mars hosting life sometime in the past will also be considered. European Space Agency (ESA) is eager to collaborate with NASA to achieve the objective. Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa's associate administrator for science, said: "We want to partner with the European Space Agency, but also with other partners."

Robotic vehicles have already been sent to Mars. The Curiosity rover, for instance, is examining the surface of the ground in an attempt to gather more information. However, the investigation would be more detailed if the materials were sent to laboratories on Earth. Yet, a round trip from Earth to another planet has never been achieved.

A potential plan involves the launch of a spacecraft in the early 2020s. The rocket ship equipped with a sample collection rover will land on Mars and retrieve 31 samples. Those samples will be launched into Mars's orbit in order to be collected by an orbiter which will bring them directly to Earth. Dr. Zurbuchen did not specify the exact timeframe of the arrival. He also emphasized on the importance of such an accomplishment: "Previous Mars missions revealed ancient streambeds and the right chemistry that could have supported microbial life on the Red Planet. A sample would provide a critical leap forward in our understanding of Mars's potential to harbor life".

Scientists denote that if life exists or existed in Mars, it would have been in microbial scale. The red planet's atmosphere is the cause of high levels of radiation, making the surface of Mars a harsh environment for living organisms. However, the possibility of living micro-organisms in the subsurface is not negligible. "We'll only be able to conclusively answer those questions by bringing samples back" Dr. Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at London's Natural History Museum explained. In that scenario, attention should be paid not to contaminate Earth's biosphere with something hazardous deriving from Mars.

Sources: Independent, BBC

Read 600 times Last modified on Monday, 21 May 2018 14:45


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