Returning samples from the surface of Mars has been a high-priority goal of the international Mars exploration community for many years. Although randomly collected samples would be potentially interesting, they would not be sufficient to answer the big questions that have motivated Mars exploration for decades.
A new 150-page paper published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science describes the results of a major collaboration among 71 scientists from throughout the international science community to define specific scientific objectives for a Mars Sample Return campaign, to describe the critical measurements that would need to be done on returned samples to address the objectives, and to identify the kinds of samples that would be most likely to carry the key information. (…)
“This report establishes critical planning that will allow us to maximize the scientific value of the Mars samples should they be delivered to Earth,” said lead author Dr. David Beaty, of NASA’s Mars Program Office at JPL. “Science is working hand-in-hand with our amazingly talented colleagues in engineering to make MSR a reality.” [More at links]