(Mars Today) NASA and an international team are developing plans and seeking recommendations to launch the first Mars mission to bring soil samples back to Earth. The ability to study soil from Mars here on Earth will contribute significantly to answering questions about the possibility of life on the Red Planet. Returned samples also will increase understanding of the useful or harmful properties of Martian soil, which will support planning for the eventual human exploration of Mars.
A task force named the International Mars Architecture for Return of Samples, or IMARS, recently met in Washington to lay the foundation for an international collaboration to return samples from Mars. NASA hosted the meeting. IMARS meeting participants included representatives from more than half a dozen countries and NASA, the European Space Agency, or ESA, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Retrieving soil from the red planet could help humanity finally determine whether or not Martian soil is toxic or fertile towards Earthen life.
While Mars has yet to prove itself to be worthwhile financially, future samples would at least help remove the "danger excuse" from colonizing the planet, something the Mars Society would definitely enjoy.
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