At the Paris Air Show, the space agencies of France (CNES), Germany (DLR), and Japan (JAXA) signed a collaboration agreement within the framework of the Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission. CNES and DLR will provide IDEFIX, a small rover that will be released by MMX lander on the surface of Phobos in the second half of the 20s.
A martian rover? What’s its name? IDEFIX! 🤩 The upcoming @JAXA_en mission to #Mars’ moons will carry IDEFIX, on board – a rover developed and operated by DLR & @CNES. The rover will be the first to scout #Phobos under extremely low gravity. 🎥: CNES/DLR/JAXA pic.twitter.com/ngbZDNxNrP— DLR – English (@DLR_en) June 20, 2023
A spunky little rover to wander on a very low gravity world
Named as the little white terrier of Asterix comics during the signing event, IDEFIX’s mission goal is to study the thermal properties and mineral composition of Phobos.
With a weight of 25.1 kilograms and a height of 41.5 centimeters, this little rover is designed to move lightly on the rocky moon of Mars, at just 1/1,000th of the Earth’s gravity. Two navigation cameras, the miniRAD radiometer and the RAX Raman spectrometer will allow IDEFIX to fulfill its scientific scope and provide insights into the mysterious origin of the Martian moons.
Currently, the work on the rover is undergoing at CNES in Toulouse, its space qualification tests are almost complete. Further tests are planned for this summer, such as those on Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), before the rover is shipped to JAXA for the final integration into the MMX spacecraft’s exploration module.
Successful cooperation for a mission full of firsts.
This agreement on trilateral cooperation is clear support for the MMX mission, which aims to launch in September 2024 on top of an H3 rocket.
“We are very excited to collaborate with CNES and DLR as part of the MMX mission, which endeavors to clarify the origin of the Martian moons and the evolutionary process of the Martian sphere by collecting samples from one of Mars’ two moons – Phobos – for the first time in space history.”— Hiroshi Yamakawa, President of JAXA
Other than returning a sample of Phobos, MMX will be the first mission to land on the Martian moon and the first to deploy a device that will wander on it. However, the collaboration between CNES, DLR, and JAXA is not a first, being already successful in landing the MASCOT probe on asteroid Ryugu, during the Hayabusa-2 mission.
This previous experience will be a crucial element for MMX’s mission success, which could bring back to Earth an unspoiled piece of the Martian system by the end of the decade.