Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, but no one can say for sure where they came from. Two leading theories propose that they are either asteroids captured into Mars orbit, or were born from the debris thrown out from a giant impact on the surface of Mars. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, is planning a mission to survey the two moons, and return a sample from one of them. Europe is also participating to the Martian Moons Exploration mission. Clarifying the origin of the two moons will help us understand more about how the Solar System formed and evolved.
ESA has demonstrated expertise in studying Mars from orbit, now we are looking to secure a safe landing, to rove across the surface and to drill underground to search for evidence of life. Our orbiters are already in place to provide data relay services for surface missions. The next logical step is to bring samples back to Earth, to provide access to Mars for scientists globally, and to better prepare for future human exploration of the Red Planet.
This set of infographics highlight’s ESA’s contribution to Mars exploration as we ramp up to the launch of our second ExoMars mission, and look beyond to completing a Mars Sample Return mission.