This paper explores and compares the perceptions of the risks associated with Mars Sample Return (MSR) among schoolchildren and adults. Comparable surveys were constructed and administered to two sample groups; science students aged 11–15 and adults with an interest in science aged 18 and over. Contingency table analyses were used to quantify any differences in perception between the two groups. Schoolchildren were less likely to consider Mars exploration to be quite or very useful (44.7% vs. 68.9%; p=0.005) and recorded significantly higher levels of risk perception regarding both a MSR mission and also towards other societal risks. These results have important implications for policy-makers, as they can inform education programs now that will enhance the viability and public support for future missions.