NASA’s bid to return rock samples from the surface of Mars to Earth in 2033 is already raking in the bill, with the project requiring much more funding than the 2023 mission has allocated.
During a recent hearing by The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice and Science subcommittee, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson revealed that the Mars Sample Return Mission requires an additional US$250 million in the current fiscal year plus an additional US$250 million 2024 to stay on track for the launch of SpacePolicyOnline in 2028 reported.
Mars sample return is one of the most complex missions the space agency has ever attempted. The mission is a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency and will involve collecting rock samples been stowed by the Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars and bring them back to Earth. To do this, a fleet of spacecraft, including an orbiter, landers, two helicopters and a rocket, is assembled and sent to the Red Planet.
The mission received $822.3 million in the 2023 spending bill, and NASA requested $949.3 million for the return of Martian samples Budget proposal for 2024. The Mars sample return mission receives a portion of the overall science funding totaling $8.26 billion in the 2024 budget. 2020 NASA and ESA estimated that the mission would require a total of at least $7 billion. However, there are concerns that the true cost of the mission will be high surpass this early estimate.
NASA is building a second one independent review board to oversee the return of Mars samples in an effort to keep the mission on time and on budget. If the mission needs more funding in the current fiscal year, it would force NASA to divert money elsewhere in the budget. The space agency recently had problems with budgeting, Delaying the VERITAS mission indefinitely to Venus to revive her Psyche mission to a metal rich asteroid.
The other solution would be to delay the sample return mission, which the space agency may be considering. “Some of these costs are unavoidable and we have to make decisions,” Nelson said during the subcommittee meeting quoted in Space News. “You can get it done, but maybe not exactly when we hope it’s done. If you stretch it out over a longer period of time, you can solve the problem.”
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