The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has given strong support for a Mars sample return in the 2013 NASA budget, and this is very welcome and important.
Mars Sample Return (Older Single Mission Concept)
Everyone should urge their Representative and Senators to support this provision. Nobody can send humans to Mars without first bringing back for analysis samples of Martian soil, water and air for 'planetary protection' reasons; to gain some level of certainty on whether or not life exists, and if so, if it would be harmful to humans or to anything on earth when it would unavoidably come back with returning astronauts.
Should current and future rovers detect something which looks like life through their limited testing capabilities, they could not tell us if it were harmful or not to earth life. Therefore, without the sample return, Mars will forever remain 10-20 years in humanity's future.
A sample return mission has been the top priority robotic space mission for years, and NASA's rejection of earlier promised cooperation with the 2016 and 2018 European ExoMars and Max-C missions (which are individual parts of such a goal) sent shock waves throughout the scientific community, and left the Europeans feeling betrayed.
|Mars Sample Return Concept|
Budget summary (text doesn't mention this provision, plus link to full budget)
Additional information on ExoMars:
Contact the White House: