Asteroid sample return is one of the key missions identified in the European Space Agency’s (ESA) priorities document “Cosmic Vision”. Addressing this priority, the MarcoPolo mission concept was born in 2007, so that now MarcoPolo-M5 is a mature mission concept, having evolved through a number of iterations involving detailed industrial studies, technology developments and scientific advances.
The original MarcoPolo mission was proposed to the Cosmic Vision medium class launch opportunity M1/M2 as a joint ESA/JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) mission and benefited from three industrial Phase A studies.
For M3, the MarcoPolo-R mission was proposed as an ESA-only mission with significant design and technology advances associated with two further industrial Phase A studies.
MarcoPolo-2D was proposed for the M4 launch as a joint ESA/CNSA (Chinese National Space Agency) and was the first return mission proposed to a D-type asteroid.
As well as the exceptional scientific interest, a mission such as MarcoPolo-M5 has huge public interest, and lends itself well to multiple high profile events throughout the mission, culminating with a spectacular Earth re-entry and the return of exotic material to Earth. As part of the MarcoPolo-R mission, a hugely popular cartoon-style blog of the mission development demonstrated
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