NASA's Mars sample return plan is getting a revamp: 'The bottom line is that $11 billion is too expensive

Apr 15, 2024
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Why not get SpaceX to do it for half of the cost?
This was my thought too. Since Elon is spending billions to develop reusable vehicles capable of delivering cargo and humans to the surface of Mars. Could a lightly-loaded Starship return from Mars surface to Earth orbit, assuming fuel was available? Would be ironic if a SpaceX crew did the sample return like "Hey, we found these canisters as we were driving around, so we used our personal luggage allowance to bring 'em home."
Nov 18, 2020
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Because Bezos would sue and get paid more for delivering a fraction of capacity and delay the project for a few years .

Boeing would be over budget and years behind schedule
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Feb 20, 2023
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NASA needs to make a simple sample return landing first.

Forget about grabbing caches, just dig nearby & launch with *lots* of telemetry.

This will test out the basics of the return vehicle - almost all first launches of a new rocket have something go amiss.

It would be foolish to place the Perseverance caches at that risk straight off.

A second test might go for the best location Perseverance has previously discovered, land there, quick dig & launch 2nd return rocket.

The caches will still be there waiting once we've got the hang of it.
Jan 9, 2020
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I am going to propose 2 solutions. NASA will need to figure out costs and timeframes for these options.
Option 1:
This will consist of 4 main components, possibly more, but here are the main pieces.
1) a mothership that will transport the lander containing the return vehicle and mini-rover and return to Earth
2) the lander which will house the return vehicle and the mini rover and serve as the launch platform for the return vehicle to the motherhip
3) a mini-rover that will collect the samples from Perseverance and pack them into the return vehicle
4) the return vehicle launches back to the mothership and docks with it where it can a) return with it to Earth or b) transfer the samples to the mothership and then stay behind

A fully crewed mission on a large ship that can house multiple astronauts for up to 2 years or more. It will be resupplied from Earth while it orbits around Mars. Landers go down to Mars to retrieve the samples. The samples are analyzed on board the orbital ship, which has laboratories and analysis equipment. The orbital ship is swapped out with a new crew and supplies after 2 years. This becomes a permanent way station in Mars orbit.
Feb 6, 2020
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Why not get SpaceX to do it for half of the cost?
The very return of the samples is mooted by SpaceX's own Mars plans. They will almost certainly have complete recon landers and rovers in multiple locations ~2030, in preparation for boots on the ground, a base, and (possibly) their envisioned colony. Nothing will be returned. The whole shebang will be done in situ: mass spectrometers, microanalytical chem. labs, electron/SEM microscopes.

The sample-return project was a good idea at the time, but those samples are just going to sit there. There's the possibility of contracting to pick them with SX rovers and return them to the Mars labs. But by that time, NASA and SX will likely have contracted to simply do the whole analysis (from that region) afresh.
Apr 19, 2024
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How about a slight modification of the fully crewed 2 year model. We need actual space stations that can be crewed indefinitely even for the moon missions. Why not create multiple livable space stations using solar sails that can cruise the distance and deliver both Mars-based labs, upload the most promising of those lab results to the space station for additional research during a mission that would study a wide range of subjects including the Mars samples on the way back towards Earth?