Mars sample return: Could Red Planet life contaminate Earth?

Conceptual drawing of a Mars Sample Retrieval Lander. (Image credit: NASA)

The robotic return of pristine samples from the surface of Mars has been a holy grail goal of Red Planet investigators for many, many years.

Over that time, strategies for returning Mars collectibles have ranged from “grab and go” acquisition from the surface to dust collection in the atmosphere to on-planet scientific selection by specially equipped robots — a task now underway by NASA’s Perseverance roverwhich is wheeling around Jezero Crater.

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