Mars Sample Return

“Mars Sample Return” is an EAI Project Team.

Project Team Coordinator
Akos Kereszturi

Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungary

The MSR-PT aims to support the preparation and realization of the Mars Sample Return (MSR) initiative, focusing on the European contribution for astrobiology aspects, and also working concurrently with related international efforts, mainly the activities of ESA and NASA. This project team will support the scientific agenda of MSR by direct research activities (providing expertise in astrobiological disciplines indispensable for MSR, such as microbiology, paleobiology, mineralogy, geology, geochemistry, planetology, chemistry, planetary protection, philosophy etc.). The project team will initiate collaborations, which will widen participation using the interdisciplinary links provided the EAI between their members. However, this project does not intend to orient or influence already existing groups and their activities, but to support collaborative interdisciplinary research that will lead to results in cross-domain disciplines. It will also provide opportunities for researchers at institutions that are not yet involved in the international research to become active in MSR research.

  1. Research activities
    1. Identify specific scientific aims, including preparation activities for MSR in interdisciplinary topics (among those already emerged):
      1. improving sampling strategies and creating interdisciplinary sampling protocols using the analogue sites of the EAI as test-benches available to EAI (analogue samples should also be used for testing methods and help for choosing the right samples to be returned, with specific focus on the Mars 2020 landing site, Jezero Crater, and methodologies present aboard the Perseverence rover),
      2. improve instrument usage strategies and instrument output formats, as well as the integration and interlinking of output data of different instruments with a focus on their holistic interpretation, 
      3. list instruments and processing capabilities expected from multiple different EAI laboratory facilities
      4. contribute to the organisation of the reception, quarantine and curation procedures; contribute to the design of related facilities for returned samples and the curation of analogue samples, including the permanent control of well-characterised reference samples to establish possible contamination monitoring and processes in time.
  1. Collaborative activities
    1. Sustain the links between already existing teams that focus on related interdisciplinary and trans-domain aspects. This activity may cover funding from collaborative bids.
    2. Involve EAI member institutes and individuals that still have not been involved in the MSR but would be interested to do so.
    3. Work on the involvement of communities (like biology, chemistry, instrumentation, robotics and analytic capabilities from medicine related groups).
    4. Offer training to the next generation of Mars researchers and at the same time create a community of young Mars astrobiology researchers.
  2. Outreach activities
    1. Offer teaching (including online) material to schools and other educational institutions, including establishing and maintaining a Mars analogue sample collection for European schools. Link and good connection / collaboration should be developed with already existing such collections, e.g. the International Space Analogue Rockstore ( and the ESA2C Collection (
    2. Inform the general public about benefits and risks associated with the MSR mission.