France, Japan Aim To Land Probe On Mars Moon: Both Countries To Undertake On Project By 2024

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Apr 17, 2017 04:49 PM EDT

France and Japan are aiming to launch a probe to a Martian Moon and return them to planet Earth. The mission is targeting Mar's Phobos moon, the largest and closest of the Red Planet's two moons. A decision is expected before the end of 2017.

Channel News Asia reports that Paris and Tokyo had already signed a preliminary agreement and will make a final decision before the end of the year. The Martian Moons Exploration Project would launch a probe in 2024 aimed at Phobos, the largest and closest of two moons circling the Red Planet. The Japanese partner for the mission is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

"It's a very important mission because aside from the Moon it would be the first time samples from the satellite of a planet would be brought back to Earth," said Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of France's National Center for Space Studies (CNES). Analysis of its composition would solve a long-standing question as to its origins.

There are theories that say that Phobos was an asteroid captured by Mars' gravitational pull while another theory says that it is left-over matter from the creation of the Red Planet. Landing on the moon will give probers another vantage point for observing Mars. Le Gall says that there are fewer challenges landing on Phobos than on the planet itself. He said that the mission is twice as easy since the probe will not have to go through the Martian atmosphere.

The egg-shaped Phobos measures 27 kilometers in diameter from end-to-end.  Mail Online reveals that Phobos is approaching Mars by about 2 meters every century. According to scientists, the moon is expected to be pulled apart from the planet by 30 to 50 million years.

The joint project is just one of the many missions to the planet Mars or its moons. In 2011, Russia launched a Phobos-bound mission which failed. Pieces of the probe fell to the Pacific a couple of months later. In 2020, a joint Europe-Russia mission will launch a rover designed to discover traces of Martian life, past or present. NASA's Curiosity rover has been conducting missions for more than three years now.

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