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  [Discuss] NASA/ESA Mars sample return

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Author Topic:   [Discuss] NASA/ESA Mars sample return
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 48273
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-18-2020 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Please use this topic to discuss NASA and ESA's Mars sample return multi-mission effort to collect and return the first samples from the Red Planet.

SpaceAholic
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Posts: 5061
From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-18-2020 02:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Establishes Board to Initially Review Mars Sample Return Plans

NASA has established a Mars Sample Return Program Independent Review Board to proactively assist with analysis of current plans and goals for one of the most difficult missions humanity has ever undertaken: the return of samples from another planet to study on Earth.

When the Perseverance rover launched to Mars on July 30, it carried with it a sophisticated sampling system with drill bits, a coring arm, and sample tubes that are the cleanest hardware ever sent to space. Perseverance will collect samples from several spots on Mars for return to Earth so scientists can determine if ancient microbial life was ever present on the Red Planet. The independent review board will help NASA review the technical concept developed during preliminary formulation to date for robustness and the ability to satisfy the mission's essential requirements. It will help ensure the agency is adopting lessons learned from its experience with previous large, strategic science missions.

"Mars Sample Return is a very high priority for the scientific community, based on the decadal survey and also of strategic importance for our Moon to Mars exploration program," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "It's a highly complex international mission which requires focus to achieve technical, programmatic and mission success, and we want to have all the expertise available to us at this early stage to maximize mission success."

NASA has successfully used independent reviews for early-stage strategic missions in the past to put these important science missions on the path to success. As a recent example, the 2017 independent review for the Roman Space Telescope (formerly WFIRST) helped the team make successful scope and cost trades ahead of confirmation.

This first leg in the round trip from Earth to Mars and back would take place over the course of multiple missions in partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) as well as industrial partners. The architecture for the mission in its earliest formulation involves Perseverance taking samples and leaving them on the surface of Mars for a "fetch" rover, which delivers them to an ascent vehicle that would take them to orbit, while an orbiter launched on another mission would rendezvous with the samples and take them in a highly secure containment capsule for landing back on Earth as early as 2031.

The returned samples could potentially provide astrobiological evidence needed to determine if life has ever existed on Mars. The mission itself also advances technologies for human exploration of the Red Planet, including the first launch from the surface of another planet. Strict protocols on forward and backward harmful contamination are being developed for the samples' return.

"NASA stands up these independent boards to help the agency learn from past experiences and uncover subtle issues in space systems that may not have yet received sufficient attention," said David Thompson, retired president of Orbital ATK, who will chair the new board. "This review will give us the chance to focus on overall mission success and to consider potential improvements that can be made early in the program to help ensure that outcome."

Experts from various fields, including planetary protection, and NASA's partner in the mission, ESA, will be consulted as the review process moves forward. The board is expected to meet for around eight weeks beginning in late August and to deliver a final report in the weeks after its review is complete.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 48273
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-10-2020 10:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
Independent Review Indicates NASA Prepared for Mars Sample Return Campaign

NASA released an independent review report Tuesday (Nov. 10) indicating the agency is now ready to undertake its Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign to bring pristine samples from Mars to Earth for scientific study. The agency established the MSR Independent Review Board (IRB) to evaluate its early concepts for a groundbreaking, international partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) to return the first samples from another planet.

Following an examination of the agency's ambitious Mars Sample Return plan, the board's report concludes that NASA is prepared for the campaign, building on decades of scientific advancements and technical progress in Mars exploration.

Above: This illustration shows a concept of how the NASA Mars Ascent Vehicle, carrying tubes containing rock and soil samples, could be launched from the surface of Mars in one step of the Mars sample return mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The MSR campaign will require three advanced space vehicles. The first, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, is more than halfway to Mars following launch in July. Aboard Perseverance is a sophisticated sampling system with a coring drill and sample tubes that are the cleanest hardware ever sent to space. Once on Mars, Perseverance aims to cache rock and regolith samples in its collection tubes. It then would leave some of them on the Martian surface for an ESA-provided "fetch" rover to collect and deliver to a NASA-provided Mars Ascent Vehicle, which then would launch the samples into orbit around Mars. An ESA-provided Earth Return Orbiter would then rendezvous with the samples in orbit around Mars and take them in a highly secure containment capsule for return to Earth in the 2030s.

"Mars Sample Return is something NASA needs to do as a leading member of the global community," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "We know there are challenges ahead, but that's why we look closely at these architectures. And that's why in the end, we achieve the big accomplishments."

Sample return is a top priority of the National Academies' Planetary Science Decadal Survey for 2013-2022, and NASA has worked to mature the critical capabilities and overall MSR concept for the past three years. The board acknowledged the longstanding cooperation between NASA and ESA in robotic and human space exploration as an asset for the robust campaign and commended both agencies' early and in-depth analysis of MSR implementation approaches to inform future planning and development.

"NASA is committed to mission success and taking on great challenges for the benefit of humanity, and one way we do that is by ensuring we are set up to succeed as early as possible," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "I thank the members of this board for their many hours of work resulting in a very thorough review. We look forward to continued planning and mission formulation in close partnership with ESA. Ultimately, I believe this sample return will be well worth the effort and help us answer key astrobiology questions about the Red Planet – bringing us one step closer to our eventual goal of sending humans to Mars."

NASA initiated the IRB in mid-August to ensure the long-awaited mission is positioned for success. It is the earliest independent review of any NASA Science Mission Directorate large strategic mission. Historically, such reviews have not occurred until much later in the program development.

David Thompson, retired president and CEO of Orbital ATK, chaired the IRB, which comprised 10 experienced leaders from scientific and engineering fields. The board, which met during 25 sessions from August to October of this year, interviewed experts across NASA and ESA, as well as in industry and academia, and made 44 recommendations to address potential areas of concern regarding the program's scope and management, technical approach, schedule, and funding profile.

"The MSR campaign is a highly ambitious, technically demanding, and multi-faceted planetary exploration program with extraordinary scientific potential for world-changing discoveries," said Thompson. "After a thorough review of the agency's planning over the past several years, the IRB unanimously believes that NASA is now ready to carry out the MSR program, the next step for robotic exploration of Mars."

The IRB found that NASA has developed a feasible concept and a broad set of architectural options to inform the planning of the MSR campaign over the next several years and recommends the MSR program proceed. It also highlighted the excellent progress the agency has achieved over the past several years and further emphasized the potential for this program to enable civilization-scale scientific discoveries underscoring that the technology is available now.

"The independent review has given strong support to MSR, which is great news for the campaign," says ESA's Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, David Parker. "It reinforces our shared vision to provide the world's scientists with pristine pieces of the Red Planet to study using laboratory tools and techniques that we could never take to Mars."

The IRB provided its findings and recommendations to NASA for consideration to better position the program for success. NASA has agreed to address and study all of the board's recommendations in the next year as it moves through early formulation efforts, well in advance of the agency's confirmation decision.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 48273
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-29-2022 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Invites Comment on Initial Plans for Mars Sample Return Program

NASA is requesting public comment on the scope of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the agency's proposed Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. Comments will be accepted through the mail and online through Monday, May 16, 2022.

The agency also is hosting two virtual public meetings about the proposed program at 3 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, and 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, 2022, here.

An audio-only feed of the public meetings will be available at 510-210-8882, meeting number 901-525-785. The online Webex feed of the meetings will include real-time automated closed captioning. Advance registration for the meetings is not required. The meeting website will be accessible to participants starting about 15 minutes before the event begins.

NASA and the European Space Agency are planning to use robotic Mars orbiter and lander missions launched in 2027 and 2028 to collect samples gathered by NASA's Perseverance rover. The samples, securely isolated inside a robust Earth Entry System using a layered "container within a container" approach, could be brought to Earth in the early 2030s. The Earth Entry System would then be transported to a specialized MSR sample receiving facility.

The public meetings will include briefings about the status of the National Environmental Policy Act process for the proposed program, as well as its purpose and scientific goals. Meetings will also cover why the Utah Test and Training Range operated by the U.S. Air Force is the proposed landing site for the samples, and what planners are doing to ensure safe and secure return of the samples – a topic known as backward planetary protection.

NASA will consider all comments received during the scoping process in the subsequent development of the MSR Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently scheduled to be released for public comment later this year.

Additional information on the agency's National Environmental Policy Act process and the proposed NASA-ESA MSR program is available online.

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