NASA has chosen a science instrument that will support a Japan-led sample return mission to Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos.
The Mars Moons eXploration mission will be launched in 2024 to visit the Martian moons, collect a surface sample from Phobos, then return the sample to Earth in 2019, NASA said Friday.
NASA has selected a neutron and gamma-ray spectrograph dubbed MEGANE to serve as one of the MMX spacecraft’s seven science instruments.
MEGANE will help scientists discover how and when the two moons formed by providing a capacity to see the elemental composition of Phobos.
“Solving the riddle of how Mars’ moons came to be will help us better understand how planets formed around our Sun and, in turn, around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s science mission directorate.
The instrument will be developed under NASA’s Discovery Program, which offers low-cost access to space through principal investigator-led space science studies relevant to NASA SMD’s planetary science program.