Sample return mission

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A sample return mission is a space mission in which extraterrestrial material samples from astronomical objects such as planets , moons or small bodies are brought back to earth for analysis purposes.


The first attempt at a sample return mission was probably planned with the Soviet lunar probe Luna 1969B , which, however, was lost when a Proton missile launched on April 15, 1969. The next attempt, Luna 15 , ended on July 21, 1969 with a crash landing on the moon. If successful, this probe would likely have returned to Earth on July 24th, about half a day after Apollo 11 .

Apollo 11 was the first successful sample return mission . In total, the Apollo program brought 382 kg of rock, dust, sand and drill core samples from the moon to earth. Unmanned successful missions were Luna 16, 20 and 24 , Stardust , Genesis and Hayabusa . The asteroid probes Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-RExTemplate: future / in 3 years are currently under way. For example, the Chinese moon mission Chang'e 5 , a Japanese probe to the moons of Mars ( MMXTemplate: future / in 4 years ) and several Mars sample return missions are Template: future / in 5 yearsplanned for the future .

In order to take samples from a comet , the space probe CAESAR was proposed as the fourth mission of NASA's New Frontiers program , but it did not succeed in the selection process.


The main disadvantage of sample retrieval missions is the risk of backward contamination . One approach to avoiding this risk is to investigate the samples outside of the earth, for example in a space station, which has not yet been carried out.

See also


  • T. Mukai: Sample return missions to small bodies. Pergamon, Oxford 2000
  • Isidore Adler: The analysis of extraterrestrial materials. Wiley, New York 1986, ISBN 0-471-87880-4 .
  • Roy E. Cameron: Soil Sampling Parameters for Extraterrestrial Life Detection . In: Journal of the Arizona Academy of Science , Vol. 4, No. 1, March 1966, pp. 3-27, JSTOR 40034167
  • Yoseph Bar-Cohen, et al .: Drilling in extreme environments - penetration and sampling on earth and other planets. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-527-40852-8 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Sample Returns: Collecting Rock and Soil Samples and Returning Them to Earth. In: NASA Mars Exploration Program, accessed March 27, 2018 .
  2. ^ Tentatively Identified Missions and Launch Failures. NASA, accessed July 16, 2019 .
  3. ^ Sven Grahn: Jodrell Bank's role in early space tracking activities - Part 2. Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics, accessed on July 16, 2019 .
  4. ^ Nancy S. Todd: Lunar Rocks and Soils from Apollo Missions. In: NASA, accessed March 27, 2018 .
  5. MMX. In: NASA - Solar System Exploration. Retrieved August 21, 2019 .