Copyright © 2003 by Paul Contursi. Published by The Mars Society with permission.
REDEFINING THE MARS SAMPLE RETURN MISSION:
Mars Society of New York
490 Third Street
Brooklyn, New York 11215
Shortly after the back-to-back failures of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in 1999, the NASA Mars Exploration Program was reorganized and plans for the Mars Sample Return mission were put on hold. Now that the program seems to be back on track and attention is once again being focused on a sample return mission, an important political opportunity for the Mars Society has emerged. As it was originally conceived, the sample return mission plan was excessively costly and complex. The plan required long lead times, many launches and very high levels of technological risk. The Society’s Political Task Force should take the initiative and begin a campaign for a sample return mission based on the application of In-Situ Resource Utilization as soon as possible. An ISRU based mission could be accomplished at a much lower cost in a shorter time with fewer technological risks. Most important, it would serve as an undeniable proof of concept for the Mars Direct mission architecture and would greatly strengthen the case for the human exploration of Mars in the near term. The presenter posits that the Society should not squander this important opportunity.