Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency says it is considering launching an unmanned explorer to one of the satellites orbiting Mars to bring back soil samples for analysis.
The plan, announced during a meeting of the government’s committee on space policy on Tuesday, would be the first of its kind in scale, although it is still at an early stage, a spokesman at the agency said. While local reports said the launch could take place by 2022, the spokesman said no time frame has been set.
If the project does takes off, a probe would be launched toward the Red Planet, taking about three to seven years to make the round trip, depending on the route it takes, according to the agency. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos.
A trip to the planet has already been achieved by Russian, U.S. and European space agencies. India also succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit around Mars in September.
The project won’t be the first Mars-related mission by the Japanese agency.
In 1998, Japan launched its first Mars explorer, Nozomi, to study the planet and its atmosphere from up close. The one way trip took about four years longer than originally expected, and the agency eventually lost control of the explorer after it closed in on Mars.
Nozomi “has become an artificial planet that will continue an endless journey” orbiting around the sun, the agency says on its website.
However Japan has been successful in getting extraterrestrial samples from space.
In June 2010, the space agency’s Hayabusa explorer became the first spacecraft to return to Earth after landing on an asteroid. It brought back samples from the asteroid Itokawa.
Quelle: JAPAN REALTIME