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European and Japanese space agencies sign two mission deals

Image: European Space Agency

Collaboration agreements cover Esa’s asteroid deflection study and Jaxa’s Martian moon survey

The European and Japanese space agencies Esa and Jaxa have signed agreements formalising their cooperation on two upcoming missions to test asteroid deflection theories and explore Mars’ moons.

Signed on 4 February, the deals mean Jaxa will join the Esa-led Hera mission (pictured), which will watch what happens after a Nasa spacecraft crashes into the 160 metre-wide moon of a small asteroid. The data Hera collects may inform the design of future missions to defend Earth from asteroids.

In turn, Esa will join a Jaxa-led mission, known as MMX or Martian Moons Exploration, which will survey Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos, bringing back a rock sample from the former.

The deals were signed alongside an online bilateral meeting, at which Esa director general Jan Wörner and Jaxa president Hiroshi Yamakawa reaffirmed their agencies’ desire to collaborate on projects involving Earth observation, space science and exploration.

Esa said these plans for cooperation will be maintained under its next director general, Josef Aschbacher, who is due to take on the role from 1 March. Aschbacher is currently Esa’s head of Earth observation.