Some people are very invested in the promise that NASA offered to science enthusiasts that it would return samples from Mars by 2020. Unfortunately, NASA disappoints, again, as an official from the agency admitted that returning Martian soil and rock samples to Earth are not going to happen in the 2020s.
According to the lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Michael Meyer, who offered a statement during a virtual meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) on 15th of February, the mission still needs careful development.
The US space agency hopes that they could be able to start serious planning and that the mission will happen so science can evolve, but that could not occur before 2020 as the budget is tight, at the moment. We will soon find out whether this will be possible because, next month, the White House will release its fiscal year 2020 budget proposal.
We Might Not Get Any Samples From Mars In The 2020s
For the Mars 2020 rover, NASA needs more financial support. This year they requested $50 million, so they could work on the mission everybody is curious about – getting samples from Mars and return them to Earth. Nearly $2.8 billion was allocated for planetary science and, unfortunately, the report which came along with the final fiscal year 2019 spending bill did not mention what that will be used for. The additional sum of money might be for studying the samples.
In 2017, a concept called “lean sample return” was unveiled by NASA, aiming to make the cost of future missions to retrieve and then return samples picked by Mars 2020, lower and more straightforward.
One mission will use the existence of the Mars 2020 site and land near it using a rover to collect the samples. Then they would get loaded into a small rocked and shipped where they should arrive. Unluckily for the scientific community, most likely, that won’t happen in the 2020s. According to Michael Meyer, “the earliest possible date that we could hope for Mars sample return is 2029,” but that’s no for sure, either.