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Japan to Delay Mars Moon Exploration by 2 Years to 2026

Reuters/file photo
This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft generated from digital topography taken on March 24, 2006 and released by NASA April 6, shows an overview of the Mars terrain covered in this first color image of Mars Planet from the high resolution imaging science experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Orbiter.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Committee on National Space Policy on Tuesday broadly approved the idea of delaying the planned launch of a Martian moon probe by two years to 2026.

The delay is included in a draft revision of a project timetable in the country’s space basic plan, for which the committee under the Cabinet Office gave broad approval. The revised timetable will be adopted at a meeting of the Strategic Headquarters for National Space Policy later this month.

The mission, called MMX, to explore the red planet’s two moons of Phobos and Deimos will be delayed following the failed launch of the first vehicle of the H3 rocket in March this year.

Other missions will also be delayed by about a year, including the launch of the new unmanned resupply vehicle HTV-X to deliver goods to the International Space Station and the LUPEX project to land a probe near the lunar south pole in cooperation with India.

In the MMX mission, Japan plans to use the probe to bring back samples from Phobos. The spacecraft was to be launched on an H3 rocket in 2024, arrive near Mars in fiscal 2025 and return to Earth in fiscal 2029.

Mars approaches Earth about every two years, so the next opportunity good for the launch would be in 2026. In that case, samples would be returned to Earth in fiscal 2031.