NASA, Partner Establish New Research Group for Mars Sample Return Program

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

Sixteen scientists from the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan have been chosen to help future samples from the Red Planet achieve their full potential.

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), its partner in the Mars Sample Return Program, have established a new group of researchers to maximize the scientific potential of Mars rock and sediment samples that would be returned to Earth for in-depth analysis. Called the Mars Sample Return Campaign Science Group, the 16 researchers will function as a science resource for the campaign’s project teams as well as for related Earth-based ground projects, such as sample recovery and curation.

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From the Earth to the Moon and on to Mars – ESA and NASA take decisions and plan for the future

Noordwijk, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — The next steps in exploring and using space for the benefit of European citizens were this week on the agenda at ESA’s Council meeting in ESA/ESTEC, the Netherlands on 14 and 15 June. The possibility of the first-ever European astronaut to set foot on the Moon, a telecommunication satellite for lunar exploration and a mission to return precious rock samples from Mars were all discussed.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined the meeting with ESA Member States in a decisive gesture to advocate for Europe’s strong role in multiple projects which reinforce the enduring partnership between the two leading space agencies.

“From understanding our changing planet to exploring Mars, I hugely value the cooperation we have with NASA” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.  “By contributing key European hardware and services to exciting programmes such as Artemis and Mars Sample Return, we are building Europe’s autonomy while also being a reliable partner.”

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NASA Leadership to Advocate for Agency Missions at ESA Council Meeting

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy visited the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans on Dec. 8, 2021 for tours and briefings on Michoud’s role in the Artemis program and other capabilities that enrich many facets of the nation’s space exploration endeavors. (Credits: NASA/Michael DeMocker)

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy will travel to Noordwijk, Netherlands, to participate in the ESA (European Space Agency) Council Meeting on Wednesday, June 15.

The event will be livestreamed at:

https://esawebtv.esa.int

ESA is one of NASA’s key partners in science and exploration. Nelson and Melroy will address the heads of delegation from the 22 agencies that comprise ESA and advocate for continued, robust funding for NASA-ESA collaboration for the next three to five years, including for Artemis, Mars Sample Return, and Earth science missions.

At the ESA Council, NASA and ESA will also sign two agreements: a strategic partnership in Earth science and a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies on the Lunar Pathfinder mission.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter Spots Gear That Helped Perseverance Rover Land

Perseverance’s backshell, supersonic parachute, and associated debris field is seen strewn across the Martian surface in this image captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 26th flight on April 19, 2022. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Eyeing some of the components that enabled the rover to get safely to the Martian surface could provide valuable insights for future missions.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter recently surveyed both the parachute that helped the agency’s Perseverance rover land on Mars and the cone-shaped backshell that protected the rover in deep space and during its fiery descent toward the Martian surface on Feb. 18, 2021. Engineers with the Mars Sample Return program asked whether Ingenuity could provide this perspective. What resulted were 10 aerial color images taken April 19 during Ingenuity’s Flight 26.

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Report Identifies Priority Planetary Science Missions, Planetary Defense Efforts, and Strategic Investments for the Next Decade

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) — A new decadal survey from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identifies scientific priorities and opportunities and makes funding recommendations to maximize the advancement of planetary science, astrobiology, and planetary defense in the next 10 years.

The recommendations by the steering committee for the decadal survey draw on input from the scientific community through the advice of six panels, hundreds of white papers, invited speakers, outreach to advisory groups and professional society conferences, and work with mission-design teams.

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New UK Space Funds to Pioneer New Approaches to Energy, Communication and Resources

British space technology will help pioneer new approaches to energy, communications and resources, thanks to new projects from the UK Space Agency

LONDON (UK Space Agency PR) — Science and Innovation Minister George Freeman announced the £2 million boost for 13 new projects during British Science Week (11-20 March), which aims to inspire interest in and celebrate science, engineering, technology and maths for people of all ages.

The projects include Rolls-Royce developing a power station for space that could power the generation of water, breathable oxygen and fuels for solar exploration.

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NASA Extends Ingenuity Helicopter Mission

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s carbon fiber blades can be seen in this image taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover on April 8, 2021, the 48th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — With its recent 21st flight complete, the Red Planet rotorcraft is on its way to setting more records during its second year of operations.

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Lockheed Martin Selected For Critical Elements Of NASA’s Mission To Bring Back First Ever Samples From Mars

Lockheed Martin will lead development of the Mars Ascent Vehicle (pictured), cruise stage for the Mars Sample Retrieval Lander, and the Earth Entry System that will help return the first ever Martian rock samples to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

DENVER, Feb. 15, 2022 (Lockheed Martin PR) – Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] was awarded three NASA contracts for key elements of the agency’s visionary Mars Sample Return program.

The first contract is for the cruise stage that will power and steer the Mars-bound journey of the lander that retrieves Martian rock and soil samples from the Perseverance Rover. For this $35 million award from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California (JPL), Lockheed Martin will produce the cruise stage and its comprehensive elements, including the solar arrays, structure, propulsion and thermal properties.

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NASA Selects Lockheed Martin Space to Build Rocket to Retrieve First Samples from Mars

This illustration shows a concept for a set of future robots working together to ferry back samples collected on the surface of Mars by NASA’s Perseverance rover. (Credits: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin Space of Littleton, Colorado, to build the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), a small, lightweight rocket to launch rock, sediment, and atmospheric samples from the surface of the Red Planet. The award brings NASA a step closer to the first robotic round-trip to bring samples safely to Earth through the Mars Sample Return Program.

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NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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Hear Sounds From Mars Captured by NASA’s Perseverance Rover

This illustration of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicates the location of its two microphones. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Two microphones aboard the six-wheeled spacecraft add a new dimension to the way scientists and engineers explore the Red Planet.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Thanks to two microphones aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover, the mission has recorded nearly five hours of Martian wind gusts, rover wheels crunching over gravel, and motors whirring as the spacecraft moves its arm. These sounds allow scientists and engineers to experience the Red Planet in new ways – and everyone is invited to listen in.

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With First Martian Samples Packed, Perseverance Initiates Mars Sample Return Mission

This composite of two images shows the hole drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover during its successful sample-collection attempt. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA, along with the European Space Agency, is developing a campaign to return the Martian samples to Earth.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Sept. 1, NASA’s Perseverance rover unfurled its arm, placed a drill bit at the Martian surface, and drilled about 2 inches, or 6 centimeters, down to extract a rock core. The rover later sealed the rock core in its tube. This historic event marked the first time a spacecraft packed up a rock sample from another planet that could be returned to Earth by future spacecraft.

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NASA’s Perseverance Sheds More Light on Jezero Crater’s Watery Past

The escarpment the science team refers to as “Scarp a” is seen in this image captured by Perseverance rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument on Apr. 17, 2021. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

Pictures from NASA’s latest six-wheeler on the Red Planet suggest the area’s history experienced significant flooding events.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A new paper from the science team of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover details how the hydrological cycle of the now-dry lake at Jezero Crater is more complicated and intriguing than originally thought. The findings are based on detailed imaging the rover provided of long, steep slopes called escarpments, or scarps in the delta, which formed from sediment accumulating at the mouth of an ancient river that long ago fed the crater’s lake. 

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Launch 2020: U.S. Reclaimed Top Spot, Flew Astronauts Again from American Soil

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls & Joel Kowsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The United States reclaimed the top spot in launches from China last year as NASA astronauts flew into orbit from American soil for the first time in nearly nine years, SpaceX deployed the world’s first satellite mega-constellation with reused rockets, and two new launchers debuted with less than stellar results.

American companies conducted 44 launches in 2020, with 40 successes and four failures. Bryce Tech reports that U.S. companies accounted for 32 of the 41 commercial launches conducted last year. The majority of those flights were conducted by SpaceX, which launched 25 orbital missions.

China came in second with a record of 35 successful launches and four failures. The 39 launch attempts tied that nation’s previous record for flights during a calendar year.

Let’s take a closer look at what U.S. companies achieved last year.

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