A Mars sample return mission (MSR) would be a spaceflight mission to collect rock and dust samples from Mars and to return them to Earth. Sample return is very powerful type of exploration, because analysis is freed from the time, budget, and space constraints of spacecraft sensors. All of Earth's laboratories can potentially study a sample.
According to Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, Mars sample return is often described by the planetary science community as the "holy grail" of robotic space missions, due to its high expected scientific return-on-investment.
Over time several missions were planned but none of the proposed missions got beyond the planning phase. The three latest proposals for a MSR mission are a NASA-ESA proposal, a Russian proposal, Mars-Grunt, and a Chinese proposal.
MSR was highest priority in the Planetary Decadal Survey 2013-2022: The Future of Planetary Science.
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