The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has revealed its plans to send a spacecraft to bring samples of soil from the Martian moon Phobos, with the aim of returning them to Earth before the end of this decade, in the hope of finding evidence of the origin of the planet and possible traces of ancient life.
The Japanese agency confirmed that the soil sample from Phobos will be part of a broader Mars moon exploration mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2024 and will include a spacecraft first orbiting the Deimos moon before landing on the larger moon Phobos to take a sample of rocks and soil.
The Japanese agency said the £322 million project would be the first to bring a sample from a moon orbiting another planet and could return to Earth as soon as possible by 2029.
If the mission goes as planned, the Japanese MMX probe will land on Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, to fetch 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of soil samples and return them to Earth.
It is worth noting that this mission comes two years before NASA’s Perseverance rover lands in the crater of the Martian volcano, where it will collect 31 samples that will be returned to Earth with the help of the European Space Agency early in 2031.
For its part, the Japanese Space Agency confirmed that this mission will put Japan ahead of the United States and China in bringing samples from Mars, to help it how it was formed, and believes that this mission will provide all the data necessary to solve this mystery and whether traces of ancient life are hidden inside. the soil.
To achieve this goal, it will send a spacecraft to Mars space and enter into orbit around Mars, and while it is there, it will photograph and collect the moons, before moving to Phobos, where it will land, collect samples, take off and return to Earth with those samples.
The Japanese scientists confirmed that when the team lands on the surface of Phobos, the team will use the drilling system to extract samples that will then be returned to Earth for analysis.
They added, that not only will they collect and return samples, the agency also plans to conduct a number of remote sensing operations of Mars and its moons.
Last December, the Japanese space agency’s probe, Hayabusa 2, returned more than 5 grams (0.19 ounces) of soil from the asteroid Ryugu, located more than 300 million kilometers (190 million miles) from Earth, in its first successful return. An asteroid sample in the world.
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