In 2020, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) capsule carrying 5.4 grams of space dust from the Ryugu asteroid landed in South Australia. NASA’s Apollo missions returned 382 kilograms of rocks from six Moon landings, while the Soviets in the 1970s and Chinese missions in 2020 have also returned lunar soil.
But now scientists are preparing to analyse the first rocks brought back from Mars.
Oregon-based science writer and science fiction author Richard A Lovett finds out about bold plans to get samples from Mars back to Earth and speaks with NASA project scientist Michael Meyer and others in the article “Mars Rocks” in Cosmos Magazine #97.
Last July, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced their strategy to return 33 samples to Earth, totalling about 5 kilograms. The plans will involve a “relay team” of six Mars rovers which would pick up and leave for the next rover in the chain a cache of Mars rocks.
The first of these rovers, Perseverance, is already valiantly scouring the Red Planet’s surface for samples.
Who knows what we’ll find. Perhaps there will be signs of ancient, long-dead Martian organisms. Or, maybe, something a little more… alive.