We are excited to share the following message from Jim Watzin, the NASA Mars Exploration Program Director:
This has been an exciting and productive week for the Mars Exploration Program. On Thursday, April 26th, at the Berlin Airshow, NASA and ESA signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) to jointly develop a Mars Sample Return plan to be submitted to their respective authorities by the end of 2019. Those authorities, the United States Congress via President’s Budget Request and the ESA Ministerial Council via their December 2019 meeting, would be expected to act upon this request in ~18 months. The SOI is attached for your reference.
This signing is historic, as it signals the desire, the readiness, and the willingness to work together to execute this inspiring mission, one that many of you have worked towards for many decades. It is the product of more than a year of hard work between the partners. I firmly believe that we, as a community and a team, are ready to tackle this grand challenge. We have the scientific and operational maturity to identify the right samples, the critical technologies are ready to be applied, and with discipline this campaign can be executed affordably.
I am excited about this opportunity and ask everyone to join me in making the effort successful.