As part of the Mars Sample Return Campaign, NASA and its partner ESA (European Space Agency) have formally agreed on the next steps to return scientifically selected samples from the Red APlanet.

NASA's Perseverance rover will be the primary means to convey the collected samples to the Mars launch vehicle as part of the campaign. The samples collected by the rover during its exploration of an ancient river delta are thought to present the best opportunity to reveal the early evolution of the planet, including the potential for life.

ESA and NASA will proceed with the creation of a sample tube depot or cache on Mars. The location of the first sample depot will be at an area of Jezero Crater called Three Forks. This cache will contain samples from carefully selected rocks on the Martian surface.

The cache of samples, a duplicate set of the collection that Perseverance will retain on board, is one part of a robust plan to ensure mission success, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

"NASA and ESA have reviewed the proposed site and the Mars samples that will be deployed for this cache as soon as next month. When that first tube is positioned on the surface, it will be a historic moment in space exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"Choosing the first depot on Mars makes this exploration campaign very real and tangible. Now we have a place to revisit with samples waiting for us there. The first depot of Mars samples can be considered a major de-risking step for the Mars Sample Return Campaign," said David Parker, ESA director of Human and Robotic Exploration.