NASA Is Exploring Alternative Mars Sample Return Methods

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
June 7, 2024
Filed under , , , ,
NASA Is Exploring Alternative Mars Sample Return Methods
Mars Sample Return — NASA

Over the last quarter century, NASA has engaged in a systematic effort to determine the early history of Mars and how it can help us understand the formation and evolution of habitable worlds, including Earth.

As part of that effort, Mars Sample Return has been a long-term goal of international planetary exploration for the past two decades. NASA’s Perseverance rover has been collecting samples for later collection and return to Earth since it landed on Mars in 2021.

The following companies and proposals were selected from among those that responded to an April 15 request for proposals:

  • Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado: “Lockheed Martin Rapid Mission Design Studies for Mars Sample Return”
  • SpaceX in Hawthorne, California: “Enabling Mars Sample Return With Starship”
  • Aerojet Rocketdyne in Huntsville, Alabama: “A High-Performance Liquid Mars Ascent Vehicle, Using Highly Reliable and Mature Propulsion Technologies, to Improve Program Affordability and Schedule”
  • Blue Origin in Monrovia, California: “Leveraging Artemis for Mars Sample Return”
  • Quantum Space, in Rockville, Maryland: “Quantum Anchor Leg Mars Sample Return Study”
  • Northrop Grumman in Elkton, Maryland: “High TRL MAV Propulsion Trades and Concept Design for MSR Rapid Mission Design”
  • Whittinghill Aerospace in Camarillo, California: “A Rapid Design Study for the MSR Single Stage Mars Ascent Vehicle”

NASA’s Mars Sample Return is a strategic partnership with ESA (the European Space Agency). Returning scientifically selected samples to Earth for study using the most sophisticated instruments around the world can revolutionize our understanding of Mars and would fulfill one of the highest priority solar system exploration goals as identified by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine.

For more information on Mars Sample Return, visit:


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻