NASA’s Budget Woes Stall Mars Sample Return, Seeks Cheaper, Faster Plan

NASA Seeks Faster, Cheaper Plan for Mars Sample Return

On April 16th, NASA announced its quest for a quicker and more cost-effective method to return samples collected from the Martian surface to Earth. Budget constraints have hindered progress on established plans. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated during a teleconference on Monday that an independent assessment concluded the current plan to return the first batch of samples collected by the Perseverance rover could cost as much as $11 billion, with the earliest realization by 2040.

NASA Budget Woes Stall Mars Sample Return, Seeks Cheaper Faster Plan

“Waiting for such a long time is unacceptable,” Nelson expressed regarding the mission of returning Martian dust and rock samples to Earth. “We are planning to send astronauts to Mars in the 2040s.”

NASA intends to solicit faster and more affordable sample return mission proposals from its various centers and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Nelson indicated that the agency’s target budget is less than $7 billion, with hopes to bring samples back to Earth by the 2030s.

An independent assessment conducted last September raised numerous concerns about the feasibility of NASA’s Mars sample return mission. While NASA initially estimated a launch for the return mission in 2027 or 2028, the independent review panel concluded that this would be impossible due to “technical issues, risks, and performance to date.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on Monday that the company will respond to the alternative proposals solicited by NASA, with the possibility of its Starship rocket bringing back “a large amount of cargo” from Mars in less than five years.

NASA Budget Woes Stall Mars Sample Return, Seeks Cheaper Faster Plan

However, the Starship project itself has faced delays and challenges. The most recent test flight in March of this year, while successful, lost communication during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Source: IT Home

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