The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has selected electrical manufacturing company Mitsubishi Electric for the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) space probe.

The mission was previously in the pre-project phase and has become a part of JAXA project last week, following officially authorisation by the Japanese Government.

Under the contract, Mitsubishi Electric will design, manufacture and operate the MMX system.

The company has already initiated development activities for the project and will be using technologies previously developed for the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) and the ‘Kounotori’ H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV).

The MMX space probe will enable the world’s first round-trip mission to explore for traces of water and organisms.

It will feature new precision landing technologies and lightweight design with three-module configuration.

Scheduled for launch in Japan in the 2024 financial year, the MMX mission will study the origins of Mars and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos.

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The spacecraft will land on Phobos for several hours and gather a sample of at least 10g from no less than 2cm below the moon’s surface.

Nasa chief scientist Jim Green said: “Humans can realistically explore the surfaces of only a few objects, and Phobos and Deimos are on that list.

“Their position orbiting about Mars may make them a prime target for humans to visit first before reaching the surface of the Red Planet, but that will only be possible after the results of the MMX mission have been completed.”