Artist’s concept of the MMX mission that will carry an 8K “Super Hi-Vision Camera”

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) have joined forces to develop a Super Hi-Vision Camera for JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission that will take the first 8K ultra-high-definition images from Mars orbit.

We have come a long way since those grainy images of Apollo 11 back in 1969 and the early images of the Moon and Earth from orbit.

he world’s first view of Earth taken by a spacecraft from the vicinity of the moon. The photo was transmitted to Earth by the United States Lunar Orbiter I and received at the NASA tracking station near Madrid. This crescent of the Earth was photographed August 23, 1966 when the spacecraft was on its 16th orbit and just about to pass behind the moon.
(Image: © NASA)

Images from 2012 show the landing sites of the Apollo Mission taken from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera snapped its best look yet of the Apollo 11 landing site on the moon. The image, which was released on March 7, 2012, even shows the remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic first steps on the surface around the Lunar Module. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Today, we see regular 4K videos stream from the International Space Station (ISS), and even from deep space missions like Japan’s Hayabusa2 asteroid landing mission. The pictures from New Horizons of Pluto, Charon and later Ultima Thule provide not only incredible detail but are powerful tools for scientist trying to understand these distant places.

Now, JAXA and NHK plan to develop an 8K “Super Hi-Vision Camera” for the space agency’s MMX mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. Slated to take one year to reach Mars, the unmanned mission will go into orbit around the planet to study the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

Being built by NHK, the Super Hi-Vision Camera will capture 4K and 8K images, which will be only partially transmitted to Earth. Because of the large file sizes, the complete images won’t be available until the complete image data is brought back to Earth stored in a recording device in the return capsule.

The end result will be a digital recreation of the mission with a detail not previously possible.

First discovered in 1877 and then imaged by Mariner one in 1961 the larger of the two small moons Phobos was images in detail by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took two images of the larger of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, within 10 minutes of each other on March 23, 2008. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

They are among the smallest in the solar system. Phobos is a bit larger than Deimos, and orbits only 6,000 kilometres above the surface. No known moon orbits closer to its planet. It whips around Mars three times a day, while the more distant Deimos takes 30 hours for each orbit. Phobos is gradually spiraling inward, drawing about 1.8 metres closer to the planet each century. Within 50 million years, it will either crash into Mars or break up and form a ring around the planet.

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