This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples of rocks and soil being collected from the Martian surface by NASA's Mars Perseverance rover.

Mars Sample Return Campaign Artist's Concept: This illustration shows a concept for multiple robots that would team up to ferry to Earth samples of rocks and soil being collected from the Martian surface by NASA's Mars Perseverance rover. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Full image and caption ›

The Mars Sample Return Campaign is an effort to bring samples of Martian rocks and soil safely back to Earth, where they can be investigated in unprecedented detail, using all the capabilities of terrestrial laboratories. It is part of NASA's long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. NASA is collaborating with its various centers and the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop the advanced technologies and hardware needed for the campaign.

The sample return mission architecture is designed to continue the work begun by NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The rover is collecting samples on Mars for future return to Earth. NASA and ESA are collaborating on a follow-on campaign that would include a NASA-led Sample Retrieval Lander, which would launch the retrieved samples aboard the Mars Ascent Vehicle. Once the sample container reaches Mars orbit, an ESA-led Earth Return Orbiter would rendezvous with it and bring the precious cargo safely back to Earth.

As currently envisioned, the Perseverance rover would deliver its samples directly to the Sample Retrieval Lander. The lander would also carry and deliver to Mars two NASA helicopters to serve as an alternate way to deliver a set of samples stashed on the surface by Perseverance.

Once the samples are on our home planet, scientists plan to conduct detailed chemical and physical analysis in laboratories around the world to look for signs of past life on Mars and perform many other studies beyond the capabilities of instruments delivered to Mars.

Updated Dec. 8, 2022

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