Japan announces space probe to study the creepy Martian monolith that nobody knows what it is

Japan announces space probe to study the creepy Martian monolith that nobody knows what it is.
Japan and Germany have a long history of cooperation in the field of technology. The two countries have a Joint Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which has met many times over the decades. Both countries have strong, developed economies and advanced technological know-how, so it makes sense for them to collaborate on scientific projects.

This time, his collaboration was with a small potato-shaped rock: the Martian moon, Phobos.

This image shows the MMX rover being delivered to the DLR site in Bremen, where engineers will complete its assembly.

In 2024, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch the Mars Moon Exploration (MMX) mission to Phobos and Deimos. Deimos will get the flyby treatment, but JAXA has bigger ideas for phobos. They plan to land a spaceship on Phobos, maybe twice, and collect samples to return to Earth. (JAXA has a history of collecting samples from other places, so don’t gamble.)

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) will send a rover on the mission. The rover is called the MMX rover, a small 25-kilogram (55-pound) wheeled vehicle that will “drop” onto the surface of phobos from a height of about 50 meters.

“With the MMX rover, we are breaking new ground in terms of technology, because never before has a wheeled rover traveled on a small celestial body with a gravity one thousandth of that of Earth,” says Dr. Markus Grebenstein of the DLR. . Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics.

Getting a rover to the surface of Phobos is not an ordinary landing procedure. The little car will be dropped on the moon and will fall as it falls. When you get to the surface, you need to get up straight and get to work.

Phobos monolith on Mars. Credits: NASA

“When the rover freefalls onto Phobos after separating from the spacecraft, it performs several ‘flips’ upon landing without sustaining damage and stops in an unpredictable position. From this situation, it has to stand up autonomously with the help of the propulsion system and deploy its solar arrays,” said Grebenstein, DLR’s MMX rover program manager. “In the end, despite the low gravity, it travels very carefully at a few millimeters per second to keep its special wheels in contact with the ground.”

Once there, it will use its instruments: radiometers and Raman spectrometers to make in situ measurements of the lunar surface. Why those two?

It’s because of the questions about Phobos and his brother, Deimos. Scientists aren’t sure if they are captured asteroids from the main belt or from another part of the Solar System, possibly from as far away as the Kuiper Belt, or if they are debris asteroids that formed on Mars. Some evidence shows that they are being torn apart by the gravity of Mars. They may even have been destroyed once and reformed again, or they may be the result of an impact that sent Martian material into orbit, where it coalesced.

Raman spectroscopy will reveal the mineral composition of Phobos. The mineral composition is essential to understand the origin of Phobos. Like any object in the solar system, its composition tells scientists where it came from. For example, some elements are more common in the inner solar system, while others only form outside the frost line.

The rover’s radiometer will measure the power of electromagnetic radiation coming from the Moon. It will be tuned to the infrared spectrum and will effectively measure the temperature of Phobos. This helps to understand the porosity of the moon, which scientists can compare with other bodies in the solar system. Scientists can use this data to help understand the origin of the Moon.

The rover will also have four cameras: two for navigation and two to monitor the wheels on the ground.

The crowning achievement of this mission will be the return of the samples. JAXA intends to achieve an impressive sampling achievement on the Hayabusa2 mission. The mission returned samples of the Ryugu asteroid, which are carbon-rich fragments. They will help determine the source of water and organic molecules sent to Earth.

With MMX, JAXA expects to collect a much larger sample than the Ryugu sample, up to 100 times larger. Due to the conditions on Phobos, the mission only had 90 minutes to collect samples before returning from darkness and the spacecraft had to leave the surface. If all goes well, the samples will return to Earth in 2029.

These restrictions do not affect the rover. You will take measurements, then you will die on Phobos, but first you will contribute to sampling operations. The MMX rover will reach the surface first and will help determine where the rover will land. The data and images from the rover will also serve as a reference for the orbiter’s instruments.

There are layers of international cooperation in this mission. The MMX mission is a Japan project and DLR will supply the rover. But Spain is helping to develop the Raman spectrometer, and the French space agency is also involved in the project.

So when the mission hopefully lands on Phobos and succeeds in collecting samples, there will be jubilant teams of scientists and engineers in various countries.

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