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France, Japan gear up for Martian moon mission
MMX. © JAXA

France, Japan gear up for Martian moon mission

Officials from CNES and ISAS met in Paris to discuss progress on MMX and other joint missions.

French and Japanese space officials have met in Paris to discuss progress on the joint Martian Moons eXploration mission (MMX) for which a cooperation agreement was signed on 10th April in Tokyo.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of France's CNES space agency, met Masaki Fujimoto, Director of Solar System Sciences at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), a department of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), on 30th October. On this occasion, French and Japanese specialists discussed MMX and other joint projects.

MMX is a project to return samples from Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons. The mission aims to probe the moons’ origins and thus gain new insights into how our solar system formed and evolved. The cooperation agreement signed in April covers phase A of the project, to which CNES will be contributing feasibility studies prior to a formal go-ahead decision. MMX is planned to launch in 2024.

Le Gall and Fujimoto discussed CNES’s contributions to flight dynamics and the rover to be operated on the surface of Phobos, and reviewed the organization put in place to this end. France's IAS space astrophysics institute is tasked with supplying the MacrOmega hyperspectral infrared imaging instrument for MMX.

ISAS’s visit to France also provided an opportunity to review progress on ESA’s Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics (Athena) mission, for which CNES and JAXA are working together on a cooling system demonstrator for the X-IFU instrument, and on Japan’s Lite satellite for the studies of B-mode polarization and Inflation from cosmic Background Radiation (LiteBIRD) mission, for which a French contribution is being considered.

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