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NASA Rocket Launch From Mars Coming Soon

NASA is preparing to build a rocket that will launch from the surface of Mars with a payload of samples from the Red Planet’s crust. Credit: NASA/JPL/CalTech

NASA will work with Lockheed Martin Space to build what they call a “Mars Ascent Vehicle” to launch samples from the surface of the Red Planet back to Earth.

The Mars Ascent Vehicle, known as the MAV, is a small rocket that will launch sediment, rock, and atmospheric samples, becoming the first rocket launched from another planet back to Earth.

The MAV is a key element of NASA’s Perseverance Rover campaign and will be instrumental for delivering samples collected by Perseverance back to Earth for closer study.

“This groundbreaking endeavor is destined to inspire the world when the first robotic round-trip mission retrieves a sample from another planet – a significant step that will ultimately help send the first astronauts to Mars,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. “America’s investment in our Mars Sample Return program will fulfill a top priority planetary science goal and demonstrate our commitment to global partnerships, ensuring NASA remains a leader in exploration and discovery.”

Getting a sample from Mars back to Earth is a complex task that requires balancing multiple conflicting design imperatives. The rocket must be able to weather the Red Planet’s punishing environment while also being variable enough to work with multiple different spacecraft. It must also be lightweight and small enough to fit inside NASA’s Sample Retrieval Lander.

“Committing to the Mars Ascent Vehicle represents an early and concrete step to hammer out the details of this ambitious project not just to land on Mars, but to take off from it,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We are nearing the end of the conceptual phase for this Mars Sample Return mission, and the pieces are coming together to bring home the first samples from another planet. Once on Earth, they can be studied by state-of-the-art tools too complex to transport into space.”

NASA’s Perseverance Rover

The Perseverance Rover landed in Mars’ Jezero crater back in February, beaming images of its descent all the way down to the surface of the planet and giving renewed hope to researchers who have tasked themselves with finding traces of life there. The new research is a result of the study of the images it took during its first three months on the planet.

A study of images from Perseverance shows that ancient water that once existed on the surface of Mars shaped the landscape of the planet.

Photographs of the Jezero crater show that the geography of the Red Planet was affected by the movement of water billions of years ago; the new evidence collected by the rover will help in the ongoing search for any evidence of life on the planet, according to the study, which was published in the journal Science.


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