No, it's not the trailer for the new Dune, it's the potential view from the 'Super Hi-Vision Camera' on Japan's 2024 mission to Mars

Hayabusa's heading home, but 8K's going to Mars


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) are planning to pop a "Super Hi-Vision Camera" with 4K and 8K capabilities onboard JAXA's 2024 mission to Mars.

While 4K and 8K might sound everso whizzy to those Earth dwellers squinting at HD (or less) television, boffins have already mapped much of Mars using cameras such as the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) (PDF) of Mars Express and stitched together some impressive images of the surface courtesy of the likes of the NASA Curiosity Rover Mastcam.

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JAXA reckons the Super Hi-Vision Camera will be "the first time in history that 8K ultra high definition images of Mars and its moons are taken in proximity" as its Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission gets underway in 2024 to clarify the origin of the moons Phobos and Deimos as well as the evolutionary processes of the Martian system itself.

Those watching streaming services stutter on UK broadband and pondering the bandwidth requirements of an 8K broadcast from Mars will be relieved to know that the plan is to snap images at regular intervals, which are then "partially transmitted to Earth to create a smooth image."

The original image data is to be stored aboard the probe and brought back to Earth in its sample return capsule.

Indeed, the sample-return aspect of the mission is of great interest to scientists, and will include a landing on Phobos for a few hours to collect a sample (at least 10g) from a minimum of 2cm below the moon's surface for analysis back on Earth. JAXA has form with such endeavours – a sample of the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu is due to be dropped in Australia by the Hayabusa2 probe in December.

JAXA will need all the experience it can get. Mars can be a challenge, as those behind the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission will attest. Also planned to scoop up a sample of Phobos, the mission was left stranded in Earth orbit in 2011 before whatever survived re-entry plopped into the Pacific in 2012.

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ESA and NASA plan an altogether more convoluted Mars sample return mission, which will see NASA's Mars 2020 rover select and deposit samples on the Martian surface. An ESA Sample Fetch Rover will then collect the samples on a later mission and return them to a Mars Ascent Vehicle, which will carry the samples into orbit around Mars. A final spacecraft, ESA's Earth Return Orbiter, will then bring the samples back to Earth. What could possibly go wrong?

China and Russia are also muttering about future sample return missions to the Martian system.

As for JAXA's MMX, the project was given the green light in February for development ahead of a 2024 launch and its samples are expected back on Earth in 2029. ®

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