What are the challenges of sample return?

The first challenge would be collecting the sample. Some parts of Comet 67P are too rugged to be safely and effectively sampled by CAESAR. Fortunately, scientists already know that Comet 67P also has some suitable areas, and they would have a few years of studying the surface up close with CAESAR’s many cameras to pick the best spot to get the sample they need.

Once stored safely aboard the spacecraft, the next hurdle would be getting the sample back to Earth in pristine condition. At the time of sample collection, the surface of the comet would be about -100°C ( about -150°F). If the sample were to warm up too much, chemical reactions could take place that would permanently change the sample. The sample would need to be kept well below the freezing temperature of water during the fiery descent through Earth’s atmosphere in order for it to remain pristine. Innovations from the engineers and scientists working on CAESAR can make this possible!

SCS hardware photo