With the Japanese probe Hayabusa hitting the surface of an asteroid and possibly bringing a bit back, the BBC’s Jonathan Amos has turned his attention to another big bit of rock we want a scraping from – Mars.
The next big two rover mission to hit Mars will be a combined ESA-NASA mission involving the European ExoMars rover and the American Max-C rover, the latter of which will have the capability to bag and pack samples of the surface of Mars for retrieval by a later mission.
Before then, and using the same rocket landing system, the sky crane, the next rover mission to Mars in 2012 is NASA’s Curiosity, the rover formerly known as Mars Science Laboratory.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy the data beamed back by the rovers and satellites already there. Combing through such data allowed a group of schoolchildren to recently discover a ‘skylight’ or fallen in part of a lava tube. The reaction of the kids, their teacher and their mother have been put into quick soundbites here.