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Grand-scale Mars sample return (1969)

4 Oct 2009, 15:17 UTC
Grand-scale Mars sample return (1969)
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NASA's Voyager Mars program envisioned placing a series of increasingly complex and capable capsules on Mars (top image above). These would include automated laboratories for analyzing martian dirt, rock, and air. Over several years of visits to different sites, such automated systems would subject Mars to a thorough biological and chemical analysis, with each new mission refining and extending the results of the last.Prodded by NASA Planetary Joint Action Group plans for piloted Mars flybys with sample collection by Mars Surface Sample Return (MSSR) landers, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in late 1966-early 1967 examined the possibility of a wholly automated, Voyager-based mission to return Mars samples to Earth labs, where they could be subjected to exhaustive analysis by scientists. The JPL study concluded that such advanced robotic missions appeared to be feasible.Soon after the JPL study, Northrop Corporation studied an MSSR mission as part of NASA's piloted flyby effort. Two years years later, the company applied the experience it had gained by conducting that study to a study for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) of an "Automated MSSR" (AMSSR) mission on a grand scale. By then, Voyager was dead, the victim of deep cuts in NASA's post-Apollo programs, ...

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