IANS

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.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by Odishatv.in staff)

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