NASA Mars Sample Return MissionThe outgoing executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics has cast doubt on one of NASA’s most coveted planetary-science missions.

Speaking at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight on Wednesday, Major General Rocket Dickman (USAF-ret.) expressed skepticism about NASA’s ability to sustain Congressional support for a a $10-billion, 15-year Mars Sample Return mission.

General Dickman suggested that NASA ought to consider a more innovative approach, such as offering a $1-2 billion prize for Mars sample return.

As appealing as the Mars Prize sounds, we¬†question whether sample return is the right goal. If geologists find an interesting rock formation on Earth, they don’t seriously consider spending billions of dollars to bring it back to their university for study. If it’s that expensive to transport, they simply study it in-situ. Given the cost of sample return, we should seriously consider the possibility that it may be cheaper to send geologists to study rocks on Mars (if they don’t have to come again) than to bring the rocks back to Earth. And as a bonus, we’d get the start of a permanent human settlement on Mars.

Written by Astro1 on October 18th, 2012 , Space Policy and Management, Space Settlement

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    Keith Henson commented

    There is a way to get a Mars mission in the thousands of tons almost for free.

    If anyone is interested.

    Keith Henson

    October 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm