This artist's concept of a proposed Mars sample return mission portrays an aeroshell-encased spacecraft approaching Mars. This spacecraft would put a sample-retrieving rover and an ascent vehicle onto the surface of Mars. The rover would deliver previously cached samples to the ascent vehicle, which would then lift the samples off the planet to rendezvous in orbit with another spacecraft for taking the samples to Earth.
NASA and the European Space Agency are collaborating on proposals for a mission to gather samples of Martian rocks and bring them to Earth after 2020. This illustration depicts preliminary concepts, not finished design.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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