Japan’s space agency (JAXA) is sending a mission to travel to Mars which will survey the Red Planet’s two moons, Phobos and Deimos. The spacecraft will explore both moons and collect a sample of Phobos and bring it to Earth. This will be a major dedicated mission to Phobos and Deimos. MMX is scheduled to be launched in 2024, and will return to Earth five years later.

Phobos has been photographed in close-up by several spacecraft whose primary mission has been to photograph Mars. The first was Mariner 7 in 1969, followed by Mariner 9 in 1971, Viking 1 in 1977, Phobos 2 in 1989, Mars Global Surveyor in 1998 and 2003, Mars Express in 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2019, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2007 and 2008. On 25 August 2005, the Spirit rover, with an excess of energy due to wind blowing dust off of its solar panels, took several short-exposure photographs of the night sky from the surface of Mars, and was able to successfully photograph both Phobos and Deimos.

The Soviet Union undertook the Phobos program with two probes, both launched successfully in July 1988. Phobos 1 was accidentally shut down by an erroneous command from ground control issued in September 1988 and lost while the craft was still en route. Phobos 2 arrived at the Mars system in January 1989 and, after transmitting a small amount of data and imagery but shortly before beginning its detailed examination of Phobos’s surface, the probe abruptly ceased transmission due either to failure of the onboard computer or of the radio transmitter, already operating on the backup power. Other Mars missions collected more data, but no dedicated sample return mission has been performed.

The Russian Space Agency launched a sample return mission to Phobos in November 2011, called Fobos-Grunt. It failed in Earth orbit. On 1 July 2020, the Mars orbiter of the Indian Space Research Organisation was able to capture photos of the body from 4,200 km away

[24 Feb 2024] Japans Will Launch Mission to Mars Moons – Phobos and Deimos in 2024 With Samples Returned in 2029
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