TechCrunch Space: Engineering the future

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. Don’t worry — we’ll be diving into the Mars Sample Return news shortly.

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This week’s SOTW segment is dedicated to Mars Sample Return, NASA’s troubled and ambitious plan to bring Martian rock and dust back to Earth.

From my colleague Devin Coldewey:

NASA administrator Bill Nelson has pronounced the agency’s $11 billion, 15-year plan to collect and return samples from Mars insufficient. But the strategy shift could be a huge boon to space startups, to which much of that planned funding will almost certainly be redirected.

“The bottom line is, an $11 billion budget is too expensive, and a 2040 return date is too far away,” Nelson said at a press conference. “We need to look outside the box to find a way ahead that is both affordable and returns samples in a reasonable timeframe.”

In other words, clear the decks and start over — with commercial providers on board from the get-go.

msr lander

Concept image of a Mars sample return helicopter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Former senior SpaceX executive Tom Ochinero is teaming up with SpaceX alum-turned-VC Achal Upadhyaya and one of Sequoia’s top finance leaders, Spencer Hemphill, on a new venture called Interlagos Capital, TechCrunch has learned.

There is little public information available about Interlagos, and the trio did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment. The company was formally incorporated in the state of Delaware on March 7, and it was registered as an out-of-state company with California only days ago, on April 11. Ochinero, Upadhyaya and Hemphill are all listed on the documents. The principal address is in El Segundo, California.

spacex falcon 9 rocket launches south korea's danuri lunar orbiter

Image Credits: SpaceX

Jake Robins has some really good takes on the Mars Sample Return, which you can find on the link above. I read his work after appearing on his podcast with Anthony Colangelo, Off-Nominal (check out the link here).

Illustration of Mars

Illustration of Mars. Image Credits: Getty Images

On April 23, 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke departed the lunar surface and rejoined Thomas Mattingly in lunar orbit. Young and Duke were returning after spending three days exploring the lunar surface. Then, the trio started heading home.

Young and Rover on the Descartes GPN 2000 001133

Young, Commander of the Apollo 16 mission, with the Lunar Roving Vehicle at the Descartes landing site. The photo was captured by Duke. Image Credits: NASA

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