Neither ESA nor NASA has yet given their official approval to the plan of bringing back Martian samples to Earth. In fact, they have not affirmed of the funding as well. However, they have been involved in taking steps to add refinement to the plans and finalize on what the missions would be like. The plans were frequently discussed during Mars Science Conference as well as in last week’s working group meeting. There would be two launched in the year 2026 where spacecrafts would be sent to Mars to collect and bring back samples from the Red Planet. The samples would be found ready by Mars 2020 rover of NASA and those should reach Earth by 2031.
Officials at ESA and NASA had signed statement of intent during April 2018. Under that statement, NASA would give Mars Lander mission along with a rover developed by Europe which would be efficient enough in taking samples already collected in Mars by Mars 2020. Then the samples would be safely stored in a Mars ascent vehicle which is a small sized rocket to launch those in the orbit or Mars. ESA has especially for this purpose, designed an Earth return orbiter which would take the sample container and get back to Earth.
During a meeting of Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group in California, the director of this program Jim Watzin said explained their overall plan in brief. He also said that they want to fixate this plan and present it before the authority to come to a final decision by the end of 2019. The plan, as was decided till then involved two launches in 2026. NASA Lander would be launched in summer and ESA orbiter would be launch in the following winter. If the missions are successful, the Lander would reach close to Mars 2020 during 2028.