NASA is underestimating the amount of time and money it will take to bring Mars rocks back to Earth over the next decade, an independent panel said Tuesday.
The review committee suggested that NASA and the European Space Agency consider making it past the next launches in the 2026-2028 champion return effort given all the technological challenges. These delays will increase costs, pushing the planning budget to $ 4 billion (about Rs. 29,800 crore) or more, $ 1 billion (about Rs. 7,400 crore) more than NASA is currently forecasting, the panel noted.
Already more than halfway to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover will hunt for the best geological specimens after landing in February. He is aiming for the Jezero Crater, believed to be an ancient river delta that may have hosted microscopic life.
Scientists want to analyze these samples in the best laboratories on Earth, hoping to ascertain whether life ever existed in the planet’s lush and humid past. The goal is to recover the champions in the early 1930s.
To do this, space agencies have teamed up to develop a lander to take the samples, a rocket to take them off the Martian surface, and an orbiting spacecraft to accept them and return them to Earth. All of this equipment will require two separate launches from Earth.
The chairman of the review committee, David Thompson, retired chief executive of Orbital ATK, told reporters that a two-year delay for launch is advisable for the best chance of success. At the same time, however, no one is suggesting NASA slow down, said Maria Zuber, a panel member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, said the space agency will reevaluate mission dates and consider all options. But for now, “it’s full steam ahead … we’re not taking a break in any way”.
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