A scientist at NASA explained how a new mission will be able to return samples taken from Mars to Earth using a container that resembles Darth Vader’s helmet. According to the scientist, a sample-return mission could finally prove if alien life exists on the Red Planet.

As NASA prepares new ways to get a better understanding of the conditions on Mars, Brian Muirhead of the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is currently spearheading a new mission that’s designed to collect samples from the Red Planet. According to Muirhead, analyzing samples from Mars in Earth’s laboratories can provide valuable information regarding the possible existence of extraterrestrial life on the planet.

"It's the consensus of science community today that if we're going to answer the hardest questions about Mars — like, for example, whether life showed up on Mars — we're going to need to bring material from Mars to our terrestrial laboratories,” Muirhead said during the International Astronautical Congress, according to Space.com.

According to Muirhead, a sample-return mission can be done with the help of the Mars 2020 expedition, which is expected to deploy a rover on Mars once it reaches the planet in 2021. Aside from the rover’s various scientific tasks on Mars, it will also collect and stash away potential samples that the follow-up mission can take home to Earth.

In this follow-up mission, which Muirhead is developing, a fetch rover will be deployed to pick up the samples that have been selected. This rover, which will be smaller than Curiosity, will carry a container that according to Muirhead looks a lot like the helmet of Darth Vader from the “Star Wars” franchise.

“All of that fits into Darth Vader’s helmet,” he said, referring to the samples that will be collected by the fetch rover.

To return the samples to Earth, the rover will then board its vehicle, which would launch from Mars using electric propulsion. Once near or within Earth’s orbit, the capsule holding the samples’ container will be launched into space. Muirhead noted that the capsule will be equipped with its own propulsion systems to ensure that it safely reaches Earth.

Curiosity rover
NASA's Curiosity rover took this selfie on Oct. 11, 2019, the 2,553rd Martian day, or sol, of its mission. The rover drilled twice in this location, which is nicknamed "Glen Etive." NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS