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Mars Sample Return Begins
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Today NASA announced initiation of the mission to return samples collected by the Perseverence rover to Earth.

When they say initation they mean they've packed some samples, the first of which was collected on September 1.

As detailed in the article, the multi-mission campaign is being developed in collaboration with ESA and NASA's own website for it details its current status as "proposed".

Unsurprisingly, many scientists are eager to begin analysis of the samples.

Has there ever been life on Mars?

Of course we don't know yet and these samples might hold that answer, but they can't afford to take any chances with biosecurity.

This poses a unique problem - how to seal and sterilise all containers without damaging their contents.

Presently they're exploring a technique called brazing, which involves melting - at a temperature of 538 degrees Celsius - a metal alloy into liquid to glue titanium collection tubes and their caps together. At that temperature chemical compounds (i.e. indicators of life) would be obliterated.

This and a range of other details still need to be worked out but they expect to launch the retrieval mission this decade.


NASA. Mars Return Mission. (viewed October 13, 2021)

Shekhtman, Svetlana (October 13, 2021).With First Martian Samples Packed, Perseverance Initiates Remarkable Sample Return Mission. NASA.

Main Image: Perseverance's Navigation Camera Captures Sample Borehole [Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech] - Mars Exploration Program (September 2, 2021). NASA.