One of the great accomplishments of the Apollo missions was to bring home hundreds of kilograms of lunar rock. Suddenly, geologists had a lifetime’s worth of lunar samples captured from several different spots across the Moon. These rocks and dust have been under continuous analysis since the Apollo 11 astronauts came home over 50 years ago.
And they’re still making discoveries.
Scientists have samples of the Sun’s solar wind, particles from a comet’s tail, a few grams from an asteroid, with more coming shortly.
But there’s one world, the focus of so much scientific study, which has never had a sample returned: Mars.
NASA and the European Space Agency have been making plans to bring a sample home from Mars for decades, and now, missions could fly in the next few years, finally bringing a chunk of the Red Planet home to Earth for us to study directly.