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Report supports Mars sample return efforts
Posted: Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 7:29 AM ET (1129 GMT)
Mars sample return mission illustration (NASA) An independent panel established by NASA to study future directions for the agency's Mars exploration program concludes that the program should retain a long-term goal of returning Martian samples to the Earth. The Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG), in a summary report issued this week, provided NASA with several options for carrying out a sample return mission, including scenarios where human missions could play a role, such as by retrieving samples returned by such missions in cislunar space. Regarding near-term mission options, the MPPG report found that even by scaling back proposed concepts for rovers to collect samples, none could fit into the budget in time for a 2018 launch; barring an increase in money, NASA would either fly an orbiter mission in 2018 that could, in part, serve as a telecommunications relay for future missions, or push back the rover mission to 2020 or later. A final decision on at least the near-term Mars plans isn't expected by NASA before the release of its fiscal year 2014 budget proposal early next year.
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