Creating a Returnable Cache of Martian Samples
This shows one prototype for hardware to cache samples of cores drilled from Martian rocks for possible future return to Earth. A major objective for NASA's Mars 2020 rover, as described by the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team, would be to collect and package a carefully selected set of up to 31 samples in a cache that could be returned to Earth by a later mission. The capabilities of laboratories on Earth for detailed examination of cores drilled from Martian rocks would far exceed the capabilities of any set of instruments that could feasibly be flown to Mars. The exact hardware design for the 2020 mission is yet to be determined. For scale, the diameter of the core sample shown in the image is 0.4 inch (1 centimeter).
Mars 2020 is a mission concept that NASA announced in late 2012 to re-use the basic engineering of Mars Science Laboratory to send a different rover to Mars, with new objectives and instruments, launching in 2020.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages NASA's Mars Exploration Program for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.