New Pics of Phobos From China’s Tianwen-1 Orbiter

Two fundamental factors affect all astrophotography – timing and location. If a camera happens to be at the right place at the right time, it can capture images that have never been seen before. And with the proliferation of cameras throughout the solar system, more and more novel photos will be captured at an ever-increasing frequency. China’s Tianwen-1 probe added to that novel collection to celebrate its second anniversary by taking a shot of Mars’ moon Phobos.

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Japan’s Upcoming Mission Will Use a Vacuum to Get its Sample From Phobos

The Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission (courtesy: JAXA/NASA).

JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, is carving out a niche for itself in sample-return missions. Their Hayabusa mission was the first mission to sample an asteroid when it brought dust from the asteroid Itokawa to Earth in 2010. Then its successor, Hayabusa 2, brought back a sample from asteroid Ryugu in 2020.

Now JAXA has the Martian moon Phobos in its sights and will send a spacecraft to sample it as soon as 2024. The mission is called Martian Moons eXploration (MMX), and it’ll use a pneumatic vacuum device to collect its samples.

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The Best Evidence for Life on Mars Might be Found on its Moons

The search for Martian life has been ongoing for decades.  Various landers and rovers have searched for biosignatures or other hints that life existed either currently or in the past on the Red Planet.  But so far, results have been inconclusive.  That might be about to change, though, with a slew of missions planned to collect even more samples for testing.  Mars itself isn’t the only place they are looking, though. Some scientists think the best place to find evidence of life is one of Mars’ moons. 

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Japan’s Mission to Phobos Will Also Bring a Sample Home by 2029

Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons, with the Stickney crater seen on the right side. Credit: HiRISE, MRO, LPL (U. Arizona), NASA

Japan’s space agency (JAXA) is gearing up for its Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, with plans to have a sample from Mars’ moon Phobos return to Earth by 2029.  Mission scientists say they hope to find clues to the origins of Mars two moons, as well as Mars itself, and possibly even traces of past life.

“We think that the Martian moon, Phobos, is loaded with material lifted from Mars during meteorite impacts,” the MMX team said on Twitter. “By collecting this Phobos sample, MMX will help investigate traces of Martian life and the new era of Martian habitability exploration in the 2020s will begin.”

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Phobos and Deimos: Two Moons, From One Source?

Phobos

Running the clock back on the enigmatic pair of Martian moons Phobos and Deimos gives researchers insight to their possible origin.

A recent study provides crucial clues on the possible ‘origin story’ for the two tiny moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos.

Modern astronomy provides us with a snapshot, a look at the present state of affairs across the solar system… but what were things like in the distant past? The existence of the two tiny moons seen orbiting Mars presents a particular dilemma for astronomers. Close up, Phobos and Deimos resemble tiny misshapen captured asteroids… but how did they get into the neat, tidy orbits that we see today?

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What Could We Learn From a Mission to Phobos?

Phobos. From where did it arise or arrive? Is it dry or wet? Should we flyby or sample and return? Should it be Boots or Bots? (Photos: NASA, Illus.:T.Reyes)

According to new research that appeared in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, the larger of Mars’ two moons (Phobos) has an orbit that takes it through a stream of charged particles (ions) that flow from the Red Planet’s atmosphere. This process has been taking place for billions of years as the planet slowly lost its atmosphere, effectively establishing a record of Martian climate change on Phobos’ surface.

This research has provided yet another incentive for landing a mission on Phobos, something that has never been done successfully. In essence, this mission could gather sample data that would allow scientists to study this record more closely. In the process, they would be able to learn a great deal more about how Mars went from being a warmer world with liquid water to the extremely arid and cold environment it is today.

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New Pictures of Phobos, Seen in the Infrared

Six views of the Martian moon Phobos captured by NASA's Odyssey orbiter as of March 2020. The orbiter's THEMIS camera is used to measure temperature variations that suggest what kind of material the moon is made of. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/NAU

NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter doesn’t get a lot of headlines lately. It was sent to Mars in 2001, to detect the presence of water and ice on Mars, or the past presence of it. It also looked at Mars’ geology and radiation. It’s been doing its job without a lot of fanfare.

Now Odyssey’s infrared camera has given us three new images of Mars’ moon Phobos.

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Evidence that Mars Used to Have a Ring

An illustration of Mars with a debris ring. Image Credit: SETI

Mars only has two moons: Phobos and Deimos. They’re strange, for moons, little more than lumpy, potato-shaped chunks of rock. They’re much too small for self-gravitation to have made them round. And one of them, Deimos, has an unusually tilted orbit.

What does that slight tilt tell us about Deimos? About Mars?

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Curiosity Looked up and Saw Phobos During the Daytime

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

For fans and enthusiasts of space exploration, the name Kevin Gill ought to be a familiar one. As a software engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who specializes in data visualization and analysis, he has a long history of bringing space exploration to life through imagery. Among his most recent offerings is a very interesting pic taken by the Curiosity rover early in its mission.

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