Mars Sample Return Mission - NASA-ESA Plan

NASA-ESA Plan

In mid-2006, the international Mars Architecture for the Return of Samples (iMARS) Working Group was chartered by the International Mars Exploration Working Group (IMEWG) to outline the scientific and engineering requirements of an internationally sponsored and executed Mars sample return mission in the 2018–2023 time frame.

In October 2009, NASA and ESA established the Mars Joint Exploration Initiative to proceed with the ExoMars mission, whose ultimate aim is "the return of samples from Mars in the 2020s". A first step in this was one particular proposal, a joint project between NASA and ESA called ExoMars, would launch in 2018 with unspecified missions to return the sample itself expected in the 2020-2022 time frame. The cancellation of the caching rover MAX-C and later NASA withdrawal from ExoMars, pushed back a sample return mission to an undetermined date.

Due to budget limitations the MAX-C mission, which was the first NASA-ESA mission leading to a MSR, was canceled in 2011 and the overall plan in 2012. The pull-out was described as "traumatic" for the science community.

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