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Monday, March 24, 2003

No Sample Return?

Some past Starsys contributions to Mars.
Some past Starsys contributions to Mars.
Credit: Starsys Research Corporation
The holy grail of many chemists and biologists for decades has been a sample return mission to Mars. With a soil sample on Earth, scientists could use the most advanced laboratories in existence and perform exhaustive analyses. The problem comes in mostly with cost. Designing a spacecraft to bring enough fuel to Mars to get it all the way back to Earth and land safely is a difficult and expensive task. Making fuel on Mars is doable and certainly cheaper, but as it has not yet been proven it is a lot to risk the success of a mission on.

Well, fear no more. Starsys Research Corporation has designed a system measuring 9 by 12 inches that can perform sophisticated chemical analysis of soil samples on Mars. It carries water along so that it can perform important wet chemistry reactions that will enable a much greater understanding of the Martian soil. The system, called the Robotic Chemical Analysis Laboratory, or RASCAL, may launch as early as 2007.

(More info: Rocky Mountain News)

- posted by Brian @ 16:27 EST