NASA Invites Public Comment on Plans for Mars Sample Return Campaign


Image: This illustration shows the concept of NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission to ferry to Earth samples collected from the Martian surface by NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover. Credits: NASA.

NASA is seeking public comments on a draft environmental impact statement for the agency’s Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign. Comments are due by Monday, Dec. 19.

Comments can be submitted online, through the mail, or through participation in a series of virtual and in-person meetings. Advanced registration for meeting options, including in-person meetings in Utah, is not required.

Two virtual meetings to discuss the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the campaign will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The first begins at 1 p.m. MST, followed by a second opportunity at 6 p.m. MST. Participate online at either time by joining the following link: Mars Sample Return WebEx

The WebEx will be accessible to participants about 15 minutes before the event begins and will include real-time automated closed captioning. To access audio-only dial 510-210-8882, and use meeting number 901-525-785.

The in-person meetings will be held at 6 p.m. MST on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the Wendover Community Center, 112 E Moriah Avenue, Wendover, Utah, and on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Clark Planetarium, 110 S 400 W, Salt Lake City, Utah.

All public meetings will include a 15-minute presentation on the purpose of the meetings, the MSR campaign project schedule, opportunities for public involvement, a summary of the proposed action and alternatives, discussion of potential environmental impacts from the proposed action, and an overview of the programmatic approach to National Environmental Policy Act compliance in general, and NASA’s proposed action specifically. The in-person meetings also will include a 45-minute open house before the official public comment portion of the meeting.

Subject matter experts will be available on-site during the open house to answer questions from the public, and to discuss informational posters and distribute related materials about the draft statement and the proposed Mars Sample Return campaign. These materials are also available online.

NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are planning to use robotic Mars orbiter and lander missions launched in 2027 and 2028 to retrieve samples of rocks and atmosphere being gathered by NASA’s Perseverance rover and return them to Earth. The samples of Mars material, securely isolated inside a robust Earth Entry System using a layered “container within a container” approach, could be brought to Earth in the early 2030s, landing notionally at the Utah Test and Training Range operated by the U.S. Air Force. The Earth Entry System would then be transported to a specialized MSR sample receiving facility.

NASA will consider all comments received during the PEIS public comment period in the subsequent development of the MSR Final Environmental Impact Statement.

In addition to receiving comments during the public meetings, comments may be sent to NASA in the following ways:

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal: Follow the online instructions for submitting comments and include Docket No. NASA-2022-0002. Please note that NASA will post all comments online without changes, including any personal information provided.
  • By mail to Steve Slaten, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, M/S: 180-801, Pasadena, CA 91109–8099

Additional information on the agency’s National Environmental Policy Act process and the proposed campaign is available online.


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