The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on Tuesday its preliminary plans for sending a space probe to one of the Martian moons, Deimos or Phobos, and bringing the samples collected back to earth, The Japan Times has reported.
According to the report, the multiyear mission is to begin as early as 2021. JAXA said that the plan was broadly approved at a government advisory panel. An approximately $241 million budget for the mission still needs government approval.
In 2010 JAXA successfully brought back samples from asteroid Itokowa on which Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft landed in 2003.
Russian Space Agency Roscosmos’ similar mission failed when the rocket carrying the probe crashed after it launched in 2011.
The Japanese mission, if it succeeds, may prove to have a key importance to NASA’s plans to send humans to Mars in 2030s.