The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) announced that Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) has officially entered the development phase. Held in partnership with space agencies in Germany (DLR) and France (CNES), MMX aims to explore Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars.
JAXA advances that, after the approval of the Japanese Government, the researchers behind MMX will now concentrate on the development of hardware and software. The mission's plan is to launch a spacecraft that will enter Mars orbit in 2025 and pay a visit to the two moons of the Red Planet, creating a detailed map of the surfaces of natural satellites.
MMX also plans to send a Phobos surface rover, which will be the first vehicle to land on a smaller body in the solar system. Upon reaching the moon, the equipment will spend several hours collecting samples. The mission intends to discover the mysteries behind the formation of the natural satellites of Mars and to verify if these are asteroids that ended up entering the Martian orbit or if they are bodies that separated from the planet after an explosion or similar caliber event.
The information gathered about the composition of the moons could be crucial for future manned missions to Mars, especially in the event that they are a source of water or fuel. If all goes as planned, the MMX mission should return to Earth with samples of the Martian moons during the year 2029.
The mission announcement comes months after JAXA announced that the probe Hayabusa2 said goodbye to asteroid Ryugu after having spent a year and a half collecting samples of its composition. The space exploration instrument now continues on its way to Earth, where it leaves a capsule for researchers.