Wild NASA video details audacious plan to rip rocks from Mars

This story is part Welcome to Marsour series exploring the red planet.

Want some cool rocks from Mars? Not serious. We’re just going to send a spaceship to the red planet, drop a lander on the martian surface, meet an old rover, stuff tubes into a rocket, blow up that rocket from Mars, have a spaceship grab the container of ‘samples, bring those samples back to Earth, then land on our planet.

I need a lively animated film to keep track of all this.

NASA released a catchy new video Thursday with an animation on the functioning of the Mars Sample Return mission. The goal is to retrieve the rock and soil samples collected by NASA’s Perseverance rover and bring them to Earth for study. Removing it will be complicated, but the reward is great.

The video has it all. A soaring soundtrack. A charming nod of Percy’s head. A happy ending that warms the heart. The animation illustrates well the complexity of the mission and the optimism that animates it. We’re looking for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars, and getting samples into the hands of scientists is our best bet to do so.

The video omits some proposed aspects of the mission, including the plan of send some small helicopters who could fetch sample tubes if something prevented the rover from coming in person to meet the lander.

For a more detailed look at the return mission, check out our CNET explainer:

Wild NASA video details audacious plan to rip rocks from Mars

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The mission is still in the design phase and there are a lot of moving parts as NASA works with the European Space Agency on the components needed to make it all work.

If all goes well, the Sample Retrieval Lander would launch in 2028, kicking off the mission in earnest. That would mean samples could be in labs by the mid-2030s. Now what? Perhaps we will finally learn if there was life beyond Earth. It would be well worth all the effort of this crazy mission.

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