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24 Sep, 2023
1 min time to read

NASA's ambitious plan to return samples from Mars has been met with skepticism as an independent review board raises concerns about the mission's feasibility, budget, and schedule.

The complex mission involves assembling a fleet of spacecraft, including an orbiter, lander, two helicopters, and a rocket, to be sent to Mars by 2028. However, the report raises doubts about the readiness of the lander and orbiter for a 2028 launch and suggests a more realistic target of 2030.

NASA, facing budgeting and planning problems, has not yet confirmed the official cost of the mission. It is estimated to be between 8 and 11 billion dollars, and additional funding is needed to keep up with the schedule.

The space agency has received $822.3 million for the mission in the 2023 spending bill and has requested $949.3 million for 2024. However, Administrator Bill Nelson revealed that an additional $250 million is needed in the current fiscal year, plus another $250 million in 2024, to keep the mission on track for a 2028 launch.

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee required NASA to submit a funding profile within the outlined budget, threatening to cancel the mission if it failed to comply.

Despite the challenges, the independent review underscores the importance of MSR in NASA's Mars exploration program. The mission's goal is to collect rock samples that may contain clues about the history of Mars and the possibility of life in the past, which will help change the way we think about the Red Planet and the search for life beyond Earth.

NASA plans to review the report's findings and make recommendations by Q2 2024, pausing official cost and schedule assessments during this period.