NASA needs more time, money to bring back Mars rocks

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November 11, 2020 - 10:14 AM

An illustration of NASA's Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars. The vehicle, built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is already halfway to Mars. Photo by (NASA/TNS)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is underestimating the amount of time and money it will take to bring Mars rocks back to Earth in the coming decade, an independent panel said Tuesday.

The review board suggested that NASA and the European Space Agency consider bumping the next launches in the sample-return effort from 2026 to 2028, given all the technological challenges. These delays will increase costs, pushing the planning budget to $4 billion or more — $1 billion more than currently envisioned by NASA, the panel noted.

Already more than halfway to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover will hunt for the best geologic samples, after landing in February. It’s aiming for Jezero Crater, believed to be an ancient river delta that may have once harbored microscopic life.

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