Japan’s space agency plans to bring back soil samples from the Martian region ahead of the Chinese and 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 2024 to land on the Martian moon “Phobos” to collect 10 grams of earth and bring it back to Earth in 2029.
The mission’s project manager, Yasuhiro Kawakatsu, said the rapid return trip from Mars will bring Japan to China and the United States in the return of samples from the Martian region, although they start later from both countries.
Why is it important to bring back soil samples from the Martian moon?
The scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA estimate that 0.1% of the surface soil on Phobos came from Mars and 10 grams may contain around 30 granules, depending on the nature of the soil.
Professor at Japan’s Institute of Space and Aviation Science Tomohiro Usui said the soil on Phobos is likely a mixture of material from the moon itself and the material from Mars that was dispersed by sandstorms.
＼New CG video for MMX✨ ／
Have you already watched the new CG video for the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX)? Using the technology and knowledge of Hayabusa2, we will sample a #Phobos (one of the Marian moons) and bring it back to Earth🌏 https://t.co/WKGZBRr0oc
– JAXA Space Research Center (@jsec_jaxa_en)
23 August 2021
Collecting the samples from multiple locations on Martian Moon may offer a greater chance of obtaining the possible traces of life from Mars than obtaining the soil from a single location on Mars.
According to JAXA scientists, all life forms that could have come from Mars would have died on Phobos due to the harsh solar and cosmic rays.
By examining the soil samples in Phobos with materials from Mars, the scientists hope to learn something about the evolution of the Martian biosphere.
Identifying potential life forms on Mars:
According to Tomohiro Usui, Japanese research on Phobos and NASA samples from specific locations in the Martian crater can complement each other. It can also lead to answers to the questions of how life on Mars, if any, originated and evolved in time and place.
NASA and European Space Agency missions are focused on the potential life forms and development of the Jezero Crater area on Mars, which is believed to be an ancient lake.
Mission on Mars by other nations to bring back samples:
NASA’s Perseverance Rover is in action in a Martian crater, where it plans to collect 31 samples and bring them back to Earth as early as 2031 with the help of the European Space Agency (ESA).
China also landed a spacecraft on Mars in May 2021 and plans to bring samples back in 2030.
World’s first successful return of an asteroid sample by Japan:
In December 2020, a JAXA probe, Hayabusa2, returned more than 5 grams (0.19 ounces) of soil from the Ryugu asteroid in the world’s first successful return of an asteroid sample. The asteroid is more than 300 million kilometers from Earth.