NASA awards over $10mn to 7 firms for Mars mission


Once completed, NASA aims to assess all studies to consider alterations or enhancements to the Mars Sample Return architecture….reports Asian Lite News

NASA on Saturday announced a grant of about $1.5 million each to seven companies for studies exploring more affordable and faster methods for the Mars sample return mission.

The companies, which include Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Blue Origin, Quantum Space, and Northrop Grumman, will conduct ten three-month-long studies.

In addition, NASA centres, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, and Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory are also producing studies.

Once completed, NASA aims to assess all studies to consider alterations or enhancements to the Mars Sample Return architecture.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the Mars sample return mission “will be one of the most complex” that the US space agency has undertaken. He said, “It is critical to carry it out more quickly, with less risk, and at a lower cost.”

“I’m excited to see the vision that these companies, centres, and partners present as we look for fresh, exciting, and innovative ideas to uncover great cosmic secrets from the Red Planet,” Nelson said.

NASA has been engaging in several missions over the last century to determine the early history of Mars and to understand the formation and evolution of habitable worlds, including Earth.

NASA’s Mars Sample Return is a strategic partnership with ESA (the European Space Agency) that has been a long-term goal of international planetary exploration for the past two decades.

Apollo 8 astronaut Anders dies

Former US astronaut William Anders, who was part of the Apollo 8 mission which saw the first crew orbit the moon in 1968, has died in a plane crash north-west of Seattle, US media reported on Friday citing his son. Anders was 90 years old.

He was flying alone in a small aircraft when it went down off the coast of Washington state, according to the reports. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the crash.

During the Apollo 8 mission, Anders took the famous Earthrise photo which depicts the moon with the Earth “rising” in space in the background. The image has been credited with changing human perception of the planet and became a symbol for Earth’s fragility. Some even consider it to be the origin of today’s environmental movements.

“Anders offered to humanity among the deepest of gifts an astronaut can give,” NASA chief Bill Nelson wrote on X.

“He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him.”

Following his NASA career, Anders served as US presidential adviser and US ambassador. He also worked for different nuclear energy and aviation companies, among others.

Most recently, Anders lived on the San Juan Islands off Washington state on the US north-west coast. He was married and had six children.

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