On 19 February 2020, JAXA, alongside the Japanese government approved the development of the MMX mission. MMX – Martian Moon eXploration – is a sample return mission targeting the Martian moon, Phobos. The mission has a planned launch date of September 2024. It expected to utilise the in-development H-3 launcher, being designed by MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries).

If the probe meets its planned launch date of September 2024, arrival at Mars is expected by August 2025. The mission will last until 2028, when the sample return canister has been collected in-orbit. Earth re-entry is expected in 2029. If so this would mark the first completed Mars round-trip.

Artist’s impression of MMX approaching Mars Moon Phobos. Courtesy: JAXA