Returning samples from Mars has been a major long-term goal of international exploration of the planet for the past two decades. Today, NASA will host a media teleconference to discuss the agency’s response to the report of the Independent Mars Sample Return Review Board released last September. The space agency invited the media and the public to join the live teleconference.

Today NASA will announce the results of the analysis of samples from Mars

The process of returning samples from Mars has been ongoing since the Perseverance rover began collecting scientific samples from Mars. These samples will help scientists on Earth better understand the geological history of the Red Planet, the evolution of its climate, and prepare for future manned missions to the planet. The samples will also be vital in finding signs of ancient life that may have existed on Mars long ago.

Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, and Nicky Fox, Assistant Administrator of NASA’s Science Directorate, will participate in the teleconference. During the live broadcast, Nelson and Fox will discuss the agency’s recommendations on the way forward for returning samples from Mars as part of a balanced overall science program.

The last rock sample collected by Perseverance, the 24th in a row, was collected in Jezero Crater. Analysis using instruments aboard the rover showed that the last rock core taken was “flooded with water over a long period of time in the distant past, possibly as part of an ancient Martian beach,” according to NASA. Perseverance collected 21 tubes filled with rock samples, two of which were filled with regolith (rock fragments and dust) and one with Martian atmosphere.

Regarding the latest sample collected, Ken Farley, a researcher at the Perseverance Project at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: “Simply put, this is exactly the kind of rock we hoped to find when we decided to explore Jezero Crater. Almost all of the minerals in the rock we just sampled were formed in water; on Earth, water-deposited minerals are often good at capturing and preserving ancient organic materials and biosignatures.”

Tonight’s live broadcast will begin at 20:00 on the NASA Media Channel.