Earlier today, officials with NASA and the European Space Agency signed a statement of intent to explore the various ways in which Martian soil samples can be collected and delivered back to Earth.

Sounds great, but a complex project of this nature won’t be easy, as it would involve the first-ever rocket launch from the surface of the Red Planet and a rendezvous in space.

The statement of intent was agreed upon today in Berlin by Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, and David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration.

The document describes the potential role each space agency may take during the mission, and how each might contribute to the project.

We’ve already got rovers on the surface of Mars, including Curiosity, which has the ability to perform rudimentary chemical analyses of rocks and soil.

It would be more ideal, however, to bring Martian soil samples back to Earth for a closer look.

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