The Aladdin spacecraft will visit the enigmatic Martian moons, Phohos and Deimos, to obtain samples and return them to Earth in November 2003. The returned samples, coupled with characterization of their geologic contexts, will answer fundamental questions about small bodies, remnants of the building blocks of the solar system: Are Phobos and Deimos related to primitive outer solar system bodies or do they share a common origin with Mars? Are they vestiges of primitive objects that delivered volatiles and organics to> the inner solar system? What are their compositions, structures, and histories?

Aladdin carries a sophisticated sensor suite to characterize the surface and environment of Phobos and Deimos. Aladdin's "flying carpet" acquires samples from both satellites using innovative sampling technology in which the spacecraft launches targeted projectiles into specific geologic units on the satellites' surfaces and collects ejecta intact during slow, 1 km/s flybys Repeated flybys of both moons provide redundant opportunities for both remote sensing and sampling, maximizing science return while minimizing risk.
Solar System Diagram
Mission Summary
Launch Vehicle
Launch Window
Mission orbit
Earth return
Science team affiliations
Delta II-7925H
Jan. 23-Feb. 11,2001 (20 days)
Dec. 2002-Apr. 2003
Nov. 10, 2003
Brown Univ., JHU/APL, Lockheed Martin, NASA/JSC, JPL, Cornell Univ., Stanford Univ., Univ. Tennesseee, USGS
Science Payload
Projectile launcher (sample mobilizer, 4 units)
Sample collectors and return capsule
Narrow-angle visible imager/near-infrared imaging spectrometer (NAVI/NIRIS)
Wide-angle visible imager (WAVI)
Dust Counter
Aladdin Spacecraft Image
Spacecraft Design
Dual-mode propulsion
Robust: 22% mass margin, 27% power margin, all major systems redundant
Low Risk: Experienced, proven team
Heritage: NEAR, Stardust, Mars Surveyor
Project Management
Principle Investigator
Project Management
Spacecraft integration
Propulsion/structure/return capsule
Dr. Carle Pieters, Brown University
JHU/APL
JHU/APL
Lockheed Martin Astronautics

Aladdin Highlights

First sample returns from two small bodies- Aladdin samples will determine the origin and evolution of Phobos and Deimos by enabling comprehensive analyses of mineralogic, elemental, and isotopic composition that are possible only with samples returned to terrestrial laboratories. (Left, Allende meteorite)
Volatiles and organic chemistry-Phobos and Deimos may be remnants of comet-like bodies that delivered volatiles and organics to the inner solar system. Aladdin samples will test this hypothesis by allowing comparison of the satellites' volatile inventories and isotopic compositions with those of Earth and Mars. (Right, Comet Halley)
Samples from known geologic contexts-Multispectral imaging and hyperspectral mapping will fully characterize the moons' morphology and composition to determine the geologic contexts of the sample sites, so that global implications of the samples can be inferred. (Phobos (left) and Deimos)
Known targets, representative samples-Phobos and Deimos are understood to the extent that observation strategies and sample sites can be predefined. Both of the dissimilar spectral units on Phobos will be sampled, at sites characterized in detail by strips of images at extremely high spatial resolution. (Right, Phobos global morphology, existing color coverage, Aladdin sample sites)
High-priority Mars science observations-During times when Phobos and Deimos are not being investigated, Aladdin will survey the composition of scientifically important regions on Mars at a spatial resolution of 400 m to provide key information on potential landing sites. (Left, Coprates Chasma)
Education and outreach-Aladdin's multifaceted approach emphasizes outreach activities that increase public awareness and infuse excitement. For example, Aladdin's instruments will be available for selected K-12 level science projects, providing the first hands-on public participation in a planetary mission. (Right, Mars and the Beebive Cluster)
Heritage balanced with innovation-Aladdin's experienced mission and science team, its heritage from the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR), Stardust, and Mars Surveyor missions, its resilient mission profile, and its new technology enhance mission capability while reducing risk. (Left, NEAR; right, Stardust)