Presentation #413.01 in the session Plenary Lecture: Exploration of the Solar System and Beyond via Sample Return Missions, Meenakshi Mini Wadhwa (Arizona State University).
The analysis in Earth-based laboratories of lunar samples returned by NASA astronauts during the Apollo program and the Soviet Luna program in the late 1960s and early 1970s revolutionized our understanding of the Moon and the formation of the Earth-Moon system. In the following decades, NASA has returned samples from a comet (Stardust mission) and from the Sun (Genesis mission), and JAXA’s Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions have returned samples from two asteroids, Itokawa and Ryugu, respectively. Even the relatively smaller amounts of samples returned by these robotic missions have contributed immensely to addressing questions about conditions in the solar protoplanetary disk, planet formation processes, and the sources of organics and volatiles on planetary bodies. In this talk, I will discuss the findings from analyses of samples in my laboratory from the most recent sample return mission, JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission. I will additionally discuss future plans of sample return from the planet Mars. The Mars Sample Return (MSR) Campaign is well on its way with the on-going collection of well documented samples by the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The Mars Sample Return Program, for which I serve as Principal Scientist, represents the second element of the MSR Campaign. I will talk about the samples that have been collected so far, the scientific motivations for bringing them back, and recent updates to the mission architecture and timeline for the MSR program.