Get into the eye of a needle. An all-terrain vehicle will be sent to one of the smallest satellites in the solar system
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Never before has a research vehicle with wheels traveled across such a small space body.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the European Space Agency are joining forces to explore one of the most unusual moons in the solar system, Phobos, which circles Mars, writes Inverse.
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The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to send the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft to the moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, in 2024. If Deimos is studied only from afar, then Phobos will be honored – an all-terrain vehicle, which is being developed by the German Air and Space Center (DLR), will be launched on it.
This all-terrain vehicle is called MMX Rover and is a small wheeled apparatus weighing 25 kg. Its main task is to land on the surface of Phobos, take samples of local rock and send them to Earth for research. According to the developers, MMX Rover will be launched to the surface of the moon of Mars from a height of just 50 meters.
“This will be a real technological breakthrough. Never before has a spacecraft with wheels traveled on the surface of such a small celestial body, which has a gravity equivalent to only 1/1000 of gravity on Earth,” says DLR's Markus Grebenstein.
According to MMX Rover engineers, during landing, it will make several somersaults over the surface of Phobos and land in an unpredictable position. But he must restore the normal position himself with the help of the engine, after which he will deploy his solar panels. Then it will move very slowly over the surface. Using the instruments of this rover, scientists want to learn more about the structure of Phobos and answer the main question: how did both satellites of Mars appear?
Scientists still do not know exactly what the true origin of Phobos and Deimos is. They may have been captured by the gravity of Mars as they flew past the planet, and in fact they are asteroids either from the main asteroid belt or from the far region of the solar system, the Kuiper Belt. The moons could have come from the impact of another large body on Mars and are thus part of the Red Planet.
Some evidence indicates that these two satellites are subject to the gravitational influence of Mars, which gradually tear them apart. Therefore, perhaps they were once already destroyed and rebuilt again over time.
Focus already wrote about this study, which indicates the possible imminent death of the satellites of Mars.
To find out the truth, you need to study the mineralogical composition of Phobos, which will show how this satellite and its companion in Mars orbit. For example, some elements are more common in the inner part of the solar system, while others are formed only at its edge.
According to scientists, MMX Rover will have 4 cameras, two of which will be used for orientation in space, and the other two will monitor the condition of its wheels and the surrounding surface.
But most importantly, Japanese scientists from JAXA do not want just collect rock samples on Phobos, but also send them to Earth. Similar, and successful, experience they already have. Previously, using the Hayabusa-2 apparatus, it was possible to collect rock samples on the Ryugu asteroid and deliver them to our planet.
But now scientists want to collect 100 times more material on Phobos, but for this, the MMX Rover all-terrain vehicle there will be only 90 minutes before the MMX spacecraft moves away from the satellite of Mars. If everything goes according to plan, then samples from the surface of Phobos will arrive on Earth in 2029. As for the rover itself, it will end its life on Phobos.
Focus has already written about NASA's most famous space program today – Artemis. This program provides for the return of man to the moon in the coming years. But a professor from the University of Cambridge believes that this program will be the last for astronauts and no one else will fly to either the Moon or Mars.