Japan plans to bring back soil samples from Martian moon by 2029

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch an explorer in the year 2024 to land on the Martian Moon ‘Phobos’ in order to collect 10 grams of soil and bring it back to Earth in 2029.

Created On: Aug 24, 2021 12:00 IST
Mars Mission by Japan
Mars Mission by Japan

Japan’s space agency has been planning on bringing soil samples back from the Mars region ahead of the Chinese and the US missions now operating on Mars, in hopes of finding clues to the origin of Mars and traces of possible life.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch an explorer in the year 2024 to land on the Martian Moon ‘Phobos’ in order to collect 10 grams of soil and bring it back to Earth in 2029.

The Project Manager of the mission, Yasuhiro Kawakatsu said that the rapid return trip from Mars will put Japan ahead of China and the United States in bringing back the samples from the Martian region despite starting later from both the countries.

Why bringing back soil samples from Martian Moon is significant?

The scientists from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA believe that 0.1% of the surface soil on Phobos came from Mars and 10 grams can contain about 30 granules, depending on the consistency of the soil.

The Professor at Japan’s Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, Tomohiro Usui said that the soil on Phobos is likely to be a mixture of material from the moon itself and the material from Mars that was spread by sandstorms.

Collecting the samples from multiple locations on the Martian moon can provide a greater chance of obtaining the possible traces of life from Mars than obtaining the soil from a single location on Mars.

As per JAXA scientists, any life forms that might have come from Mars would have died due to the harsh solar and cosmic radiation on Phobos.

By studying the soil samples in Phobos including materials from Mars, the scientists hope of learning about the evolution of the Martian Biosphere.

Identifying potential life forms on Mars:

According to Tomohiro Usui, the Japanese research on Phobos and NASA’s samples from the specific locations in the Martian Crater can complement each other. It can also lead to the answers to the questions such as how Martian life, if present, emerged and evolved in time and place.

The missions by NASA and the European Space Agency focus on the potential life forms and the evolution of the area of the Jezero Crater on Mars, which is believed to be an ancient lake.

Mission on Mars by other nations to bring back samples:

The Perseverance Rover of NASA has been operating in a Mars Crater where it plans on collecting 31 samples and bring them back to Earth with help from the European Space Agency as early as 2031.

In May 2021, China also landed a spacecraft on Mars and plans on bringing back samples around in the year 2030.

World’s first successful return of an asteroid sample by Japan:

In December 2020, a JAXA probe, Hayabusa2, was able to bring back more than 5 grams (0.19 ounce) of the soil from the asteroid Ryugu, in the world’s first successful return of an asteroid sample. The asteroid is more than 300 million kilometers from the Earth.

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