JAXA and CNES Sign Agreement to Collaborate on Martian Moons Exploration

JAXA President Naoki Okumura (right) and CNES President Jean-Yves LE GALL (left) shake hands after the signing ceremony. Photo courtesy of JAXA.

A few days ago, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced that it had signed an Implementing Arrangement with France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) to share technical expertise during the R&D phase of the Martian Moons Exploration (MMX) mission.

Signed on 10 April by Naoki Okumura, President of JAXA, and Jean-Yves LE GALL, President of CNES, the collaboration will focus on three areas of research – the near infrared spectrometer, flight dynamics, and the feasibility of a small lander.

The arrangement is an extension of the Inter-Agency Agreement between JAXA and CNES Concerning the Cooperation in the Field of Space Programmes, signed on October 5, 2015.

MMX is a mission conceived of by JAXA and Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), and aims to send a probe to the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, by early 2020s.  The mission has two primary objectives – to verify hypotheses on the origins of the moons, as well as to observe and record conditions around them.

With an expected mission duration of 5 years, the probe will carry a payload comprising a variety of spectrometers and cameras, along with other instruments that have not yet been finalized. The collaboration with CNES aims to explore technical options before the payload is decided upon.

Last year, NASA announced it was soliciting proposals for one instrument to be implemented aboard the MMX, suggesting that the probe would carry payloads from agencies outside of Japan.

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