Japan’s space agency (JAXA) has received the green light for a pioneering mission to the two moons of Mars. The government’s science ministry this week allowed the Martian Moons Exploration (MMX) project to enter the development phase. It means JAXA is on course to launch a Mars-bound spacecraft in 2024 aboard a new H-3 rocket being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The spacecraft will arrive close to the Red Planet’s moons, Phobos and Deimos, a year later in 2025. At the start, the spacecraft will spend time surveying Mars’ moons from a distance, making detailed maps of their surfaces, before attempting to become the first-ever mission to make a landing on one of them. But that’s not all. The team also wants to take a sample during its time on the surface, bringing it to Earth in 2029 for analysis. The moons Phobos has been selected for surface operations, JAXA said this week, with the spacecraft expected to stay on the surface for several hours while it gathers a sample weighing at least 10 grams from just below the moon’s surface. The team also wants to put down a rover to gather additional data during a close-up exploration. Mars’ moons… Read full this story
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