Science & Technology

Japan’s mission to the Martian moon Phobos will bring back samples by 2029

Phobos imaged by HiRISE. Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

Japanese space agency (JAXA) We are preparing for that Martian Moons eXQ (MMX) mission, With a plan to have a sample from Mars‘Moon Fobos will return to Earth by 2029. Mission scientists want to find clues to find the origins of the two moons on Mars, Mars itself, and perhaps even traces of life in the past.

“I think the Martian moon Phobos is loaded with material that was lifted from Mars during the impact of a meteorite,” said the MMX team. I said on Twitter. “By collecting this Phobos sample, MMX will help us investigate the traces of life on Mars and begin a new era of Martian habitat exploration in the 2020s.”

The MMX is currently planned to be launched in 2024, and the spacecraft will reach the Martian system by 2025, about a year after leaving Earth. The mission’s current plans include an orbiter, a lander landing on Phobos with sample collection and return capabilities, and perhaps a rover.

Overview of the newly released MMX mission. Credit: JAXA

Orbiters are placed in so-called quasi-satellite orbits (QSOs) around Phobos to collect scientific data. After both orbital and in-situ observations, and sample collection, the lander will take off to carry a sample of the material collected from Fobos back to Earth. The current plan is for the lander to collect 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of soil.At this week’s press conference, and Reported by the Associated Press, According to JAXA scientists, about 0.1% of Phobos’ surface soil comes from Mars, and 10 grams may contain about 30 granules, depending on soil consistency. there is.

The team says the exploration of Mars’ moons will help improve technology for future planetary and satellite explorations. Their mission states that they will help advance, for example, the technology needed to make a round trip between Earth and Mars, enhanced sampling technology, and optimal communication technology using ground stations in Deep Space Network.

The purpose of the MMX mission is to:

  • Investigate whether the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos have captured coalesced asteroids or debris after a huge collision with Mars, and gain new knowledge about the formation process of Mars and terrestrial planets.
  • To elucidate the mechanisms that control the moons of Mars and the surface evolution of Mars, and gain new insights into the history of the sphere of Mars, including the moons of Mars.
Transport of schematics of Martian materials

MMX infographic. Credit: JAXA / NASA

Sending missions to the Moons of Mars has long been on the list of wishes for mission planners and space enthusiasts, and over the past few years, JAXA engineers and scientists have been working to put together such missions.

Many scientists say that studying and landing on Mars’ moons is the next best thing to do to go to Mars itself. Phobos and Deimos are considered as places for a human foundation that may allow easier access to Mars than going directly to the Red Planet, especially for the first human mission to the Mars system. Has been done.

“Human beings can realistically explore the surface of just a few objects, and Phobos and Deimos are on that list.” NASA Jim Green, Chief Scientist, said in 2020: Has completed. “

MMX spacecraft

The concept of an orbiting MMX spacecraft artist, where scientific instruments are shown. Credit: JAXA / ISAS

The mission has international inputs with 11 instruments, four of which are provided by international partners of NASA (US), ESA (Europe), CNES (France), and DLR (Germany). ..

JAXA’s equipment includes a telescopic (narrow-angle) camera for observing detailed terrain, a wide-angle camera for identifying hydrated minerals and organic matter, a LIDAR laser altimeter, a dust monitor, and a mass spectrum analyzer. It is. Charged ions around the moon, sampling equipment and sample return capsules, and radiation environment monitors.

NASA has signed the provision of gamma-ray and neutron spectrometers and pneumatic sampling devices for examining the elements that make up the Moons of Mars. CNES is building a near-infrared spectrometer that can identify mineral composition and is working with the DLR to design a rover that can explore the surface of the phobos. ESA is listed as an aid to deep space communications equipment.

MMX project manager Yasuhiro Kawakatsu said at a press conference this week that Japan would be ahead of the United States and China in taking samples back from the Martian system due to the short time it takes to return MMX samples.

A new treatise published by JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science proposes If Mars was once a habitable planet and had water on its surface, it could have been released into space by a giant Martian dust storm. They say that the material MMX collects from Fobos helps to confirm that this theory is true.

Originally published Today’s universe..

Japan’s mission to the Martian moon Phobos will bring back samples by 2029 Japan’s mission to the Martian moon Phobos will bring back samples by 2029

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