Rover that will explore Mars moon Phobos starts landing tests

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The first rover to explore the moon of another planet has started practicing for its landing, even though that historic touchdown is at least six years away.The 55-lb. (25 kilograms) robot is part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Mar­tian Moons eX­plo­ration (MMX) mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2024 and arrive at the Red Planet the following year. In late 2026 or early 2027, the MMX Rover, which is being developed by a German-French team, will descend to the surface of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons. (The smaller one, Deimos, is just 8 miles, or 13 km, across.) Related: 7 biggest mysteries of Mars Up-close photo of the Mars moon Phobos. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)The four-wheeled robot will do so in freefall, from an estimated height of 130 feet to 330 feet (40 to 100 meters) — a dramatic drop that mission team members have begun simulating at the German Aerospace Center’s Landing and Mobility Test Facility in Bremen.”Under laboratory conditions, we drop the preliminary model of the MMX Rover from a height of five centimeters [2 inches] onto a changeable surface at various angles,” test manager Michael Lange, from the DLR Institute of Composite Structures …

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