NASA wants new ideas for its troubled Mars Sample Return mission

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NASA’s Mars Sample Return program has hit several snags in recent months after being told its current $11 billion plan is too expensive.

The existing Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission plan would require multiple launches to Mars in order to eventually place a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) on the Red Planet’s surface. From there, either the Perseverance rover or other small retrieval helicopters — similar to NASA’s Ingenuity rotorcraft — would pick up Mars samples that Perseverance has already collected, and load them into the MAV. Then, an ascender would launch the samples up to orbit, where a spacecraft would collect them and haul them back toward Earth.

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