You might be familiar with NASA's Mars 2020 mission set to go down this summer with the space agency sending a rover to our neighbor planet. But the great minds at the research facility have been wrecking their brains trying to figure out how to bring Martian samples back to Earth in 2026. Well, after years of studying and test firing, NASA has chosen to go with a miniature rocket designed to help transfer a payload from Mars to our home world.
When Perseverance "Percy" goes up in July, it will collect core samples from rocks and store them in tubes until a future rover goes up to join it. That companion rover will fetch the soil samples, feed it to the small launcher which will shoot it to a waiting orbiter in space. And the orbiter will grab it and come home in a carefully orchestrated relay that is estimated to cost $7 billion – but really, you can't put a price on Martian dirt.