NASA and ESA create 16-member Mars Sample Return Campaign Science group


NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have established a new group of researchers in a bid to maximise the scientific potential of Mars rock and sediment samples that would be returned to earth for in-depth analysis. The team of 16 researchers will be called the ‘Mars Sample Return Campaign Science Group’ and will function as a science resource for the campaign’s project teams and for related Earth-based ground projects like sample recovery and curation.

NASA and ESA are partners in the Mars Sample Return Program.

The members of the Mars Sample Return Campaign Science Group are as follows:

  1. Laura Rodriguez – NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Southern California
  2. Michael Thorpe – Johnson Space Center Engineering, Technology and Science at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston / Texas State University, San Marcos
  3. Audrey Bouvier – Bayerisches Geoinstitut, Universität Bayreuth, Germany
  4. Andy Czaja – Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati
  5. Nicolas Dauphas – Origins Laboratory, the University of Chicago
  6. Katherine French – Central Energy Resources Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver
  7. Lydia Hallis – School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK
  8. Rachel Harris – Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Boston
  9. Ernst Hauber – Institute of Planetary Research, German Aerospace Center, Germany
  10. Suzanne Schwenzer – School of Earth, Environment and Ecosystem Sciences, the Open University, UK
  11. Andrew Steele – Earth and Planetary Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington
  12. Kimberly Tait – Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada
  13. Tomohiro Usui – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
  14. Jessica Vanhomwegen – Laboratory for Urgent Response to Biological Threats, Institut Pasteur, France
  15. Michael Veibel – Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Michigan State University
  16. Maria-Paz Zorzano Mier – Astrobiology Center, National Institute for Aerospace Technology, Spain

“These 16 individuals will be the standard-bearers for Mars Sample Return science. They will build the roadmap by which science for this historic endeavor is accomplished – including establishing the processes for sample-related decision-making and designing the procedures that will allow the worldwide scientific community to become involved with these first samples from another world,” said Michael Meyer, Mars Exploration Program lead scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, in a press statement.

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The team has been selected to “revolutionise humanity’s understanding of Mars by bringing scientifically selected samples to NASA’s Mars Sample Return Campaign. The campaign will fulfil a solar system exploration goal, which has been of high priority since the 1970s for the space agency.

This partnership between NASA and the ESA would be the first mission to return samples from another planet and the first to launch from the surface of another planet. NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover had collected samples during its exploration of an ancient lakebed. These samples are thought to present the best opportunity to reveal clues about the early evolution of the red planet, including its potential for past life.

Understanding Mars better will also improve our understanding of other rocky planets like it, including Earth.