Agency officials have confirmed that NASA will assist with the Japanese-led sample return Mars Moon eXploration (MMX) mission. Set to be launched in 2024, the mission is set to explore two of the Red Planet’s moons, Phobos and Deimos, land on Phobos to collect samples and return to Earth in 2029.
Scientists are hoping that the MMX mission will provide valuable data to assist scientists in resolving one of the greatest mysteries of Mars, “when and how the small moons formed.”
“Solving the riddle of how Mars’ moons came to be will help us better understand how planets formed around our Sun and, in turn, around other stars,” explained associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen. “International partnerships like this provide high-quality science with high-impact return.”
NASA will provide the MMX mission with a scientific instrument developed by a team at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory lead by David Lawrence. Dubbed MEGANE, the instrument will equip the MMX probe with the sensors able to detect the elemental composition of Phobos.
“We’ll see the composition of the region from which MMX collects its sample,” said Thomas Statler, program scientist for MMX at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will help us better understand what we discover in the laboratory when the mission returns the sample to Earth for analysis.”
NASA’s own Mars sample return mission is planned for 2026. The mission is set to take advanced of advanced scouting performed by the agencies Mars 202 rover.
Image Credit: JAXA/NASA