Skip to main content

Nature, the weekly journal of science, recently featured one of NASA’s current projects, which involves building a rover that it hopes will bring back signs of life from Mars.

Harry “Hap” McSween, Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is a part of the team working on the $2.4 billion project to bring back a rock from Mars, which could take place as early as July 2020.

The rover will blast off from Florida, carrying 43 sanitary tubes on a seven-month trip to Mars. Upon its arrival, it will drive across the red planet and fill each tube with dirt, rock, or air, then it will seal the tubes and wait years—possibly decades—for another spacecraft to come retrieve the tubes and fly them back to Earth.

Only recently did the Mars 2020 team decide to carry the tubes due to the advice of a scientific panel that represents the researchers of the future.

“We need to read their minds about what kind of investigations they will want to do on the returned samples,” said McSween.

Many other variables play into the collection and analysis of the Martian particles, as McSween and other team members discuss in the article.