Japan And France Will Send A Probe To Collect Samples From Phobos
Japan and France are reportedly working on a new mission, which will send a probe to gather samples from Mars' moon Phobos — one of the two moons of the Red Planet.
The mission dubbed Martian Moons Exploration project is a collaborative effort of the Japan Exploration Agency and France's National Centre for Space Studies.
The mission aims to launch a probe in 2024, which will collect samples from Phobos and bring them back to Earth for analysis.
The news comes courtesy a report from Phys.org, which revealed that a preliminary agreement was signed between Tokyo and Paris on Monday, April 10. The publication cited CNES' president Jean-Yves Le Gall and shared that he revealed that the final decision would be made before the year end.
"It's a very important mission because — besides the Moon — it would be the first time samples from the satellite of a planet would be brought back to Earth," noted Le Gall.
Why Send A Probe To Phobos?
Phobos is the bigger of the two moons of the Red Planet and has a 17-mile diameter. The other Mars moon is called Deimos.
Scientists do not know much about the origins of the egg-shaped Phobos. However, with the proposed mission collecting samples of the Martian satellite, scientists would be able to analyze Phobos' composition. This would possibly yield important information about the origins of the satellite.
One of the theories about Phobos' origin is that the moon was an asteroid, which was captured by Mars' gravitational pull. The other hypothesis is that Phobos is the result of the left-over matter from the event that led to Mars' creation.
Another reason for sending the probe to Phobos is that it will offer a different vantage point to observe the Red Planet. This observation will be relatively simple as Phobos is 3,700 miles away from Mars. According to Le Gall, alighting on Phobos will be less challenging when compared to landing on the Red Planet. This is because "the probe will not have to go through the Martian atmosphere."
Previous Phobos-Bound Missions
This is not the first time that a probe would be sent to Phobos. In 2011, Russia was instrumental in launching a probe to the Red Planet's moon. This was the country's first-ever interplanetary mission in over a decade. However, the mission was a failure and pieces of the probe crashed into the Pacific in just two months.
Other Upcoming Mars Missions
Come 2020, a rover will be launched as part of the ExoMars mission — a joint venture of Europe and Russia. The rover will attempt to locate traces of life on the Red Planet, existing or signs from the past.
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