The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Tuesday unveiled a plan for an unmanned space probe to bring back sand and other samples from Mars' in a multiyear mission that could begin as early as 2021.
The plan, which won broad approval at a meeting of a government advisory panel on Tuesday, would be the world's first sample collection mission to the moons of Phobos and Deimos, the agency known as JAXA said.
The JAXA Institute of Space and Astronautical Science launched a task force in May to consider the feasibility and significance of the planned mission. Details of the probe, including its size and engine type, have yet to be worked out.
JAXA plans to commence development of the probe in the next fiscal year, which starts in April, if the project is given government funding.