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Mount Fuji to stand in for Martian moon

TOKYO >> Researchers will use drones and artificial intelligence to observe Mount Fuji in preparation for a project to bring back rocks and other material from the Martian moon of Phobos.

The MMX project, led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, is scheduled to launch a probe toward Phobos in 2024. Phobos is about 65,600 feet in diameter.

Much data is required to get a complete picture of the geological features of Phobos; however, the volume of data that can be sent from space is limited.

This prompted Hideaki Miyamoto, a University of Tokyo professor who specializes in planetary sciences, along with other researchers, to turn his attention to Mount Fuji, which is abundant in rocks and has a base diameter of more than 131,000 feet.

This year the research team will observe Mount Fuji from above with a drone to explore how much data is necessary to ascertain geological details, such as the shape of rocks. The results will be used as reference when the probe observes Phobos.

The MMX project aims to gather rocks and sand from Phobos and bring them to Earth in 2029. If the expedition is successful, it is expected to be the first collection of samples from a Martian body.

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