Japan Eyes Orbiter-rover Mission To Martian Moons Phobos & Deimos; Will Return By 2030

Science

Forwarding its Mars journey, a team of Japan Space Agency (JAXA) is currently working on a Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission, as per international reports

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Japan

Forwarding its Mars journey, a team of Japan Space Agency (JAXA) is currently working on a Martian Moon Exploration (MMX) mission, as per international reports this week. Reports state that JAXA aims at launching an orbiter, lander, and rover to the martian moon with a return capability in 2024. The MMX project has reportedly been on a Pre-Project phase for the past three years.

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What is MMX?

The MMX mission is reportedly based on  JAXA's Hayabusa mission to asteroid Itokawa in 2005 and its subsequent return in 2010. The Hayabusa 2 had successfully collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu in 2019 and will return to earth in the later half of 2020. Similarly, MMX consists of an orbiter with several instruments to study both moons of mars -Phobos and Deimos for three years.

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Reports state that MMX will initially revolve around Phobos and then touch down on it along with a rover. The rover which has a corer-type drill will allegedly collect a sample "exceeding 10 g". Then a propulsion module will transport the sample container from Phobos and will reportedly return to Earth by 2029.

Explaining why the martian moons are of so much interest, NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green said, "Humans can realistically explore the surfaces of only a few objects and Phobos and Deimos are on that list. Their position orbiting about Mars may make them a prime target for humans to visit first before reaching the surface of the Red Planet. But that will only be possible after the results of the MMX mission have been completed."

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NASA's Mars 2020 rover

As explained by NASA, the  Mars 2020 rover is based on its predecessor 'Curiosity' which was launched in 2011. The car-sized rover which is about 10 feet long,  9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall weighs 1050 kgs, which is less than a compact car. The official launch window of the mission is July 17- August 5, 2020, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The rover is expected to land on February 18, 2021, at Jezero Crater, Mars. The mission is expected to last for about 687 Earth days which is one Mars year.

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