Carefully Choreographed NASA/ESA Mission Could Return Martian Soil Samples to Earth Popular Science

We’ve landed the robots, puttered about on the planet’s surface, and, at long last, found the water. Now, NASA is getting back to basics on Mars with a plan to once again search for signs of life on the Red Planet, a focus that’s been on the back burner since the 1976 Viking missions. But this time, NASA doesn’t want to analyze Mars from Mars. This time the space agency wants to bring samples back home, and has a cleverly orchestrated scheme to do it.
NASA thinks the acquisition and return of Martian rock and soil samples is completely doable, but it’s going to be a costly three-phase process, probably with a price tag totaling some $10 billion. And since the federal government isn’t exactly showering NASA with cash, the agency recently teamed with its European counterpart to map out the details of such a complex mission.