MMX: we’ll send lander and a rover to the mars moons

Discovering the surprising moons of Mars: Phobos and Deimos!

Video of the day november 9th 2019


What Is This Mission To The Martian Moons?

So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? On Earth right now, the “major priority” is to land man on Mars for the first time ever. So much so that NASA, SpaceX and certain other companies are working out ways to not only get them there, but to get them there quickly, efficiently, and more. So given all of that work, why is it that there is someone trying to land something on the  Martian moons of Phobos and Deimos? Who is doing this, and what is the purpose of it all?

The answer to the first question is JAXA, which is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, who is fueling the mission to the Martian Moons. They will be helped by the space agencies of Germany and France as well. German is going to help them not just get there in their own way and help them study the moons to prepare for the launch, they’ll lend equipment for the rover in question to study materials on the moon. As for France, they’re going to help with the building and usage of the rover. Making sure that it’s perfectly suited to go and survive and explore the moons of Mars.

But which moon will they go and try to land on? Planetary Scientist Tim Glotch noted his feelings on the matter:

“My guess is that they would go to Phobos unless there was some kind of spacecraft engineering reason not to, because it’s a bigger target and has more gravity.”

A sound guess, and one that will likely play out like he expects it too. But that still raises the question…

Why Does Japan Want To Go To These Moons?

I’m sure that to some of you out there the question of going to a moon of Mars with a rover instead of to Mars proper with a space shuttle and people may seem kind of…lame. After all, one is advancing the human race through the stars, and the other at best is a fact-finding mission. So what is JAXA aiming to do on these moons?

Well, the official mission as stated by them is to go to either Phobos or Deimos, collect 10 grams worth of material and then bring it back to Earth. Also though, they aim:

  • To reveal the origin of Mars’ moons, and to improve our understanding of planetary system formation and of primordial material transport around the border between the inner and outer regions in the early Solar System.
  • To observe processes that have impact on the evolution of the Mars system and to advance our understanding of Mars’ surface environmental transition.

Both of these goals sound fancy, so let me break it down into smaller words for you. Basically, JAXA and others are aiming to go and try to learn more about Mars’ moons so that they know how it affects Mars right now, and how it affected it in the past. The history of Mars is actually something that many at NASA and beyond have been trying to uncover, because all the signs point to the fact that Mars not only had vast quantities of water, but was a much more habitable place over time, and they want to know what happened. So if they can’t find the answers on Mars, perhaps the answers can come from the moon.

That’s not so far-fetched as the Earth’s moon has led to some interesting discoveries about our own planet. Including how the moon is likely a chunk of the Earth that was launched into space after a collision with an asteroid. This was theorized after a kind of rock was found both on the Earth and on the moon and had the same composition to the letter.

So if we can find that on the Earth’s moon, imagine what we can find on Mars’ moon? Plus, there may be another reason for this…

The First

History is determined by a lot of things, you likely know the phrase, “History is written by the winners”, which is true to an extent. But another way of looking at it is that history is defined by the people and groups who did something first. So it might surprise you that there have been no rovers or other entities that have been landed on Mars’ moons.

Obviously, we’ve landed plenty of things on Mars over the years, mainly because Mars is a planet, and we’ve held it in high esteem as a place where we might colonize (and we are working on those colonization plans right now), but as for the moons…we’ve had probes and satellites go past them in various distances, we’ve had telescopes look at them and take pictures of them…but we haven’t had anything land on them.

So if JAXA (and partners) are able to complete the mission that they are setting out to do, they’ll be making history in a whole host of ways. Obviously, they’ll be the first rover to land on the Mars moon, but it goes beyond that. They’ll be the first mission to a “small body” in the solar system, outside of our moon of course because we’ve had plenty of missions to that.

But yeah, we’ve always had a fascination with the moons of the solar system, but outside of our own we’ve never landed on one, this would change that. And because of that, it could change our outlook on Mars as a whole.

The Composition of The Martian Moons

As noted earlier, we don’t know a lot about the Martian moons because we’ve never truly landed on them. We know what they “look like” per se because of the various photos taken of them by satellites, probes, and telescopes, but we have a big question mark in terms of the composition of said moons. Many are eager to know whether the composition is similar to Mars, because if it is, it could tell us more about the planets history:

“A rover could sample the rocks and tell us what the surface is made out of. If it has minerals that are similar to the Martian crust, that could support that idea, or if it has minerals closer to carbonaceous chondrites, it could be more like a captured asteroid,” says Tim Glotch.

The formation of our solar system is still a big mystery in certain ways, and the reason that certain planets have various types of moons is still up for debate. So this mission could help answer some big questions about Mars, its moons, and how they got to their place in the solar system.

But, the composition of Mars may have an even bigger revelation than you realize. Because depending on what the Martian moons are like material-wise, it could help us with the future of travel to Mars.

“In some of the potential plans to eventually send humans to Mars, Phobos is a waystation. If it ends up being volatile-rich, meaning we could extract water for fuel, that could potentially support human expeditions to Mars,” says Glotch.

That would most certainly change how certain things are done all over the world in regards to space travel. Landing on a moon THEN going to the planet would actually help things significantly, if it is feasible, obviously.

However, there’s yet even another avenue that might be able to be implemented here.

Life On Phobos?

To be clear, I’m not talking about us finding alien life on Phobos (though microbial life is not out of the question I suppose), I’m talking about Phobos (or Deimos to be fair) becoming a place where humanity can live potentially. Remember, the idea of living on Mars only exists because we know that there is water that can be extracted from the planet, and that it’s possible to grow things there to support long-term human life.

But now imagine that Phobos or Deimos not only has similar qualities…but they also have better ones. Imagine if Phobos or Deimos had hidden water on their surface, what do you think that would mean for the Earth at large?

Scientists are working around the clock right now to try and figure out how to make long-term habitation of Mars work. But if one of the moons of Mars is a better candidate, and can thus ease the workload of these scientists, then they can focus more on other tasks to make the colonization missions work.

Granted, there’s no chance we’ll abandon the mission to Mars in terms of colonization, BUT, by having Phobos or Deimos be yet another place we can colonize, we have the potential for multiple spots in the universe for humanity to live. And, as noted in the last entry, having a place on Phobos or Deimos to live could make traveling to Mars easier via a waypoint station.

Yes, we’re assuming a lot, and we have no idea what we’ll find on these moons, but the possibilities are there, even if you’re a little skeptical about living on a moon…

Phobossource: Nasa

Why Would We Live On A Moon?

Objectively, I’m sure it may sound weird that we might want to live on a moon and not a planet. Just by the definition of it, a moon is much smaller than a planet and thus won’t have as much living space for people to colonize on. But here’s the thing, as our own solar system has proven, sometimes the planets that are around aren’t the best options for us to try and colonize.

Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (it’s still a planet to me!!!) are all places we’d like to colonize, but because of various reasons, we can’t, or shouldn’t, or wouldn’t. However, the moons of these planets? That’s a different story.

The best example of this right now is the Saturn moon known as Titan. Titan is one of Saturn’s biggest moons, but also, is one of the most intriguing moons in the entire solar system. This is because the moon not only has an atmosphere (which is rare for moons), but it has lakes full of various gasses that we can use to make energy for those who try and colonize the planet.

In the minds of some, Titan is a more viable place to try and colonize than Mars due to certain things that it has that Mars doesn’t.

Cycling this back to Phobos and Deimos, we don’t know all the details about these moons. They could have valuable resources and materials that could make habitation not only likely, but recommended. It’s not likely to be as good as Titan (which is considered the best moon to colonize in the whole solar system), but if it gets close? Then we’ll have yet another option to get things done in terms of putting humans on another place that they can live on.

And if we’re being honest, that’s the main goal of virtually every space agency right now.

So When Is This All Happening?

The one downside to this Martian Moon Mission is that the timing isn’t exactly soon. The mission itself is scheduled to take place on 2024. That’s when the rover will be launched to Mars, and barring any difficulties it’ll enter Mars’ atmosphere in 2025. It’ll then conduct its various missions and then start the journey home. Which, barring difficulties, will have the rover returning…in 2029.

That’s right, by the time this mission is “complete”, a decade will have passed, that’s a very long time to wait for potential life-changing results. More than likely, we won’t even find out anything conclusive from the materials that it brought back until a year or so later, so that’s not ideal either.

Not to mention that by 2029, if you believe NASA and SpaceX, they’ll already have landed people on Mars either once or twice depending on the success of their missions. Which means that if there was something on Phobos or Deimos that could’ve helped the Mars missions, it’ll be a case of too little too late for NASA and SpaceX. Or at least, for the initial missions.

Timing is everything sometimes.

Exploring The Solar System

Still, even with the lack of help that this mission will likely give the Mars missions, the exploring of Phobox and Deimos is still very important for the overall mission of humanity. Which is to be quite honest to know everything about our solar system!

There’s still TONS we don’t know about the planets, the moons, and more. So now, with JAXA and its collaborators going above and beyond the call to try and do something that even NASA hasn’t done, it allows NASA, SpaceX and more to focus on other missions to help flesh out the solar system and its mysteries.

Who knows what we might know 10 years from now? What new discoveries that could change everything that we know about the planets, moons, and maybe even our own star.


Regardless of the findings of Phobos or Deimos, the mission overall is still quite clear: Get To Mars. Whether it be by rover, by shuttle, or something in between, humanity is set on getting to Mars and figuring out how we can live there or near there. Like we noted previously, plans are already in the works to launch several missions to Mars for human travelers, and some will come within the next 5 years or so, so we know we’re going there.

And if we do get there, and if we do make it there and get to set up a colony, a new age of humanity will have begun. Who knows? Maybe after we set up a colony there, we’ll be better able to colonize Phobos and Deimos if they’re shown to be worthy. We’ll see is the stars align.

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