The eventual return of samples from the surface of Mars is the highest Mars science priority among spacefaring nations. However, this poses unique challenges in many dimensions. Sample return would comprise multiple missions, separated by as much as a decade, as well as science investigations that begin long after the first mission has completed its work. The endeavor would span US administrations and would involve multiple international partners. The unique challenges include ensuring each mission accomplishes its high-level requirements while also addressing the overarching sample return campaign ones; defining interfaces between projects that don’t exist yet; and making decisions today to enable science decades in the future. The basic elements of sample return and potential architectures for accomplishing it will be presented, along with an approach to addressing the needs of science, the concerns of stakeholders, and the reality future project managers will have to face.
Lisa May is the Lead Program Executive for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. Her portfolio includes MAVEN, Mars Sample Return, and Mars Technology Development. LIsa is also the Chair of the International Mars Exploration Working Group. She has been with NASA for 14 years and has worked on missions in every science discipline, from concept through design, launch, and operations. LIsa is also active in public engagement and is one of the narrators for NASA's ScienceCast. Prior to joining NASA, Lisa founded and ran Jackson-May Associates, a systems-engineering consulting firm with clients ranging from small technology and major aerospace companies to the National Academy of Sciences to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.