Japan is wanting to get in on the Mars action, but instead of aiming for the Red Planet, the country’s space agency is cooking up a mission to the moons.
According to Nikkei Asian Review, Japan is planning to send some asteroid-probing craft to the tiny Martian moons Phobos and Deimos. JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has announced intentions to have at least one craft reach the moons as early as 2022. The goal will be to retrieve samples from the moons, which could provide valuable data for future manned missions to Mars.
If anyone can do it that quickly, it might be Japan. The space agency intends to use some of the tech created for the successful 2010 Hayabusa probe, which was the first craft to visit an asteroid and send samples back to Earth. For the Mars initiative, JAXA apparently wants to upgrade that technology to explore Phobos and Deimos.
If nothing else, the more intel we can gather on Mars and its celestial neighborhood, the better. If we want to get humans there eventually, we need to know as much as we can. Plus, the mission could also provide some clarity about the origins of Mars’ moons, which some scientists believe started out as asteroids that were yanked into Martian orbit.