NASA Transfers Science Instrument to JAXA's Mission Investigating Martian Moons

March 13, 2024

On March 14th, NASA completed the delivery of its gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer instrument to JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) for integration onto JAXA’s MMX (Martian Moons eXploration) mission spacecraft, followed by the final system-level testing. Known as NASA’s Mars-moon Exploration with Gamma Ray and Neutrons (MEGANE) instrument, it was developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, in collaboration with colleagues from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. The MEGANE instrument is poised to play a pivotal role in the MMX mission, which seeks to characterize and unravel the origins of Mars’ moons, Phobos and Deimos, and eventually deliver a sample from Phobos to Earth.

The Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, believed to be either remnants of an ancient collision between Mars and a large impactor or captured asteroids, hold significant mysteries waiting to be unveiled. MEGANE's capability to measure the energies of neutrons and gamma rays emitted from Phobos' surface will enable MMX to analyze the elemental composition of the moon's surface. This data will be instrumental in deducing the probable origin of Phobos, shedding light on its enigmatic past.

Thomas Statler, the MEGANE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, emphasized the importance of MEGANE in achieving the objectives of the MMX mission, stating that it will significantly contribute to understanding the origin of the Martian moons. The successful integration of MEGANE marks another milestone in the ongoing collaboration between NASA and JAXA on this groundbreaking mission.