NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return

Searching for traces of early life on Mars

Mars Sample Return (MSR) is a proposed mission to return samples of Martian rocks, soils and atmosphere from the surface of Mars to Earth. The Mars Sample Return campaign may revolutionize our understanding of Mars by returning scientifically selected samples for study using the most sophisticated instruments around the world. This strategic partnership between NASA and ESA will be the first mission to return samples from another planet, including the first launch from the surface of another planet. The samples to be returned – currently being collected by the NASA rover Perseverance during its exploration of Jezero Crater, home to an ancient river-delta – are thought to be the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of Mars, including the potential for life. Emmanuelle Javaux has been invited by NASA to join the MSR Rock Sample Team, a group of 20 scientists (10 from the USA, 10 non-USA) who works with the  MSR Campaign Science Group (MCSG) and the MSR Gaz Sample Team.

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Emmanuelle Javaux is also part of the EXOMARS CLUPI Instrument (CLose-Up Imager) Team and the EXOMARS IDS (InterDisciplinary Scientists) Team “Patterns”. The ESA-led Rosalind Franklin rover has a unique potential to search for evidence of past life on Mars thanks to its drill and laboratory in the oldest Mars terrain ever explored: the alluvial-deltaic clay-rich deposits of Oxia Planum. It will be the first rover to drill 2 m below the surface, and the first to use novel driving techniques, including wheel-walking, to overcome obstacles. Although the 2022 launch window for the mission is no longer possible following the suspension of cooperation with Roscosmos, a fast-track study is under way to determine options for bringing the mission to Mars.

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