Decadal Survey Commentary,a with Current Assessment of Statusb

Ascent vehicles

The means to return planetary samples needs to be developed, beginning with small bodies and the Moon, advancing toward Mars, then Venus, and eventually to more distant targets such as Mercury and the satellites of the outer planets.

The South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return mission to the farside of the Moon could be the first test of sample-return technologies to be used on Mars. The common elements include … an ascent vehicle.

A Mars-Earth return system, including an ascent vehicle and in-space rendezvous and sample capture, comprises key technologies that can evolve from the vehicles developed for the South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return mission.

The perfection of Mars sample-return technology should be followed by its adaptation for return of samples from the surface of Venus.

Long-lived, high-temperature, and high-pressure systems (including ascent vehicles) will be required for Venus sample return.

aCommentary and recommendations drawn from National Research Council, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003, pp. 202-206.

bThe assessments of the Committee on Assessing the Solar System Exploration Program are shown in italic type.

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