NASA has revealed details of how it is planning to bring samples from Mars to Earth. According to an update posted on the space agency's website, the compact, lightweight Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) will be used for launching rock, sediment, and air samples from the surface of Mars. The award for its construction has been awarded to Lockheed Martin Space, of Littleton, Colorado. This move takes the Mars Sample Return Program's goal of making the first robotic round trip to safely return samples to Earth one step closer to success. If successful, this mission would be the first to launch a rocket off of another planet.
"We've never launched a rocket from Mars, so there's a lot of technology involved here," said Steve Sides, Lockheed Martin's senior program manager for the Mars Ascent Vehicle Integrated System (MAVIS). "But we're also going to get a lot of science from those Mars samples."
This strategic NASA-ESA alliance would be the first to return samples from another planet. The MAV will be humanity's first rocket to be fired off from another planet and it will further NASA's attempts to better understand the red planet.
"This groundbreaking endeavor is destined to inspire the world when the first robotic round-trip mission retrieves a sample from another planet – a significant step that will ultimately help send the first astronauts to Mars," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
"America’s investment in our Mars Sample Return program will fulfill a top priority planetary science goal and demonstrate our commitment to global partnerships, ensuring NASA remains a leader in exploration and discovery."
Cost-plus-fixed-fee pricing of the contract for the Mars Ascent Vehicle Integrated System (MAVIS) is estimated to be around $194 million. The performance period will start around February 25 and last for six years.
"The campaign would fulfill a solar system exploration goal, a high priority since the 1970s and in the last two National Academy of Sciences Planetary Decadal Surveys," said NASA.
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