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The return to Earth of Martian samples is becoming clearer

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Mars, in the footsteps of robots case

NASA and ESA have revised and simplified their sample return project by removing the small robot that the Europeans were to build. The Perseverance rover will bring its own rock cores for their journey to Earth.

169 million kilometers from here, Perseverance picks up stones. NASA’s Mars rover is visiting the Jezero crater, which once housed a lake, this summer. In search of traces of past life, he inspects the rocks and sometimes takes a carrot, as on July 11 in the lake delta. It is valuable material for understanding the environment of the red planet when it was humid. For this, the scientific instruments on board the rover are not enough. We would need the means we have on Earth, the microscopes of our best laboratories. So we would have to bring the samples back to Earth. Easy to say… But who will stick to it?

NASA has been working on the subject for several years now, in collaboration with its European counterparts from the European Space Agency (ESA). The two organizations had set up a strategy from 2020: a probe would land on Mars and would split into two segments. On one side, a “lander” that would remain planted in the Jezero crater. On the other, a small robot on wheels that would retrieve the sample tubes from Perseverance’s hideout, then bring them back to the lander. They would then be transferred to the…