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Mars NASA Space

The Case For Going To Phobos Before Going To Mars 150

MarkWhittington writes: The current NASA thinking concerning the Journey to Mars program envisions a visit to the Martian moon Phobos in the early 2030s before attempting a landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s, as Popular Mechanics noted. The idea of a practice run that takes astronauts almost but not quite to Mars is similar to what the space agency did during the 1960s Apollo program. Apollo 8 and Apollo 10 each orbited the moon but did not land on it before the Apollo 11 mission went all the way to the lunar surface, fulfilling President John. F. Kennedy's challenge.
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The Case For Going To Phobos Before Going To Mars

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  • than Phobos would be 'just the tip'

    • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

      With Phobos being so close to Mars, setting up a station there could be useful beyond just a stepping stone onto Mars.

      We could send robots onto the surface that could be directly and nearly instantaneously piloted by humans that are stationed on Phobos. Essentially it could be a form of telepresence without the dangers and difficulties associated with actually landing on Mars.

      • We could send robots onto the surface that could be directly and nearly instantaneously piloted by humans that are stationed on Phobos.

        An automated car can drive 30 miles on US Highway 101, avoiding thousands of other moving objects going between 0mph and 65mph. Do we really need a human driver for the Mars robots, which only have to steer around some rocks, and are thousand of miles from any other vehicle? Especially as this would be the most expensive human driver ever.

        • We're not sending a manned mission to Mars to explore Mars. We want to send human guinea pigs to Mars and back, to see if they'll survive the trip.

  • I think that it's an interesting option, and establishing a base on Phobos could be used as a starting point for other expeditions as well.

    Of course the surface of Mars is the primary goal, but a nearby base could provide advantages.

  • by Maritz ( 1829006 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @05:45AM (#50634071)

    If we were inclined to go to Mars (which we don't appear to be) Phobos would be a natural choice because it's a ready-made space station. Probably mostly hollow, built-in radiation protection. You could probably pressurise some natural caverns in there.

    But we won't do any of that, because we prefer aircraft carriers and strategic nukes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by guacamole ( 24270 )

      Don't forget the scandalous one and a half trillion dollar F-35 program. It's just shocking. One BAD light fighter-bomber jet ends up costing almost like the entire Pentagon budget for three years. If this is not the proof that Pentagon exists these days to enrich the shareholders of the military-industrial complex, rather than protect our country, I don't know what what else could be..

    • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @09:06AM (#50634791)

      I saw Robert Zubrin talk at a recent conference (via YouTube) and he said the delta-V between Phobos's orbit and the orbits you'd want to use for landing on Mars is very costly, making it an unnecessary and wasteful detour on the way to our real destination. The only reason you'd go there would be to tele-robotically build your Mars base before you land, and Phobos would provide radiation shielding for that long process.

      OTOH, building your base would go a lot quicker if done by astronauts on the surface, and radiation shielding wouldn't be that hard to improvise with Martian regolith. Granted, you would probably get less shielding that way than you would on Phobos, but you'd have far less effects from long-term microgravity too, so... pick your poison.

      Zubrin's point is, if your long-term goal is to have a colony on Phobos, then go to Phobos. If your goal is a colony on Mars, just go there and do that.

    • Low Specific Impulse requirements make the Martian moons a good place for permanent basing, but not so good for staging a Mars mission, and not so great an idea if we are just going to go there to go there, rather than go there to stay there.

      Mostly, they are a great staging area for asteroid missions, given that the escape velocity is generally achievable with spring-loaded catapults and electric winches, rather than the more expensive and hard to construct mass drivers that you'd have to build to get mass

    • It's a spacestation!

  • by skovnymfe ( 1671822 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:04AM (#50634105)
    Makes sense. It doesn't take nearly as much fuel getting off a mun as it does a planet.
  • by idbeholda ( 2405958 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @06:38AM (#50634177) Journal
    We called it Doom.
  • I don't think it's wise to try to visit Phobos because the aliens have already disabled two Soviet probes [wikipedia.org] en route to it. Can't we stick with less dangerous space exploration missions?

    • You can land there, but bring with you a rocket launcher, a shotgun, a chainsaw etc. and thousand of ammo crates and medical supplies just to be sure.

      • You can land there, but bring with you a rocket launcher, a shotgun, a chainsaw etc. and thousand of ammo crates and medical supplies just to be sure.

        Duh, they're already there just lying around waiting to be found.

  • I think we need to send robotic machines to Mars to build canals to bring the water to the more habitable regions. Hey, if the Martians won't do it, why not us?
    • by stooo ( 2202012 )

      "I think we need to send robotic machines to Mars to build railways to bring the ice to the more habitable regions. Hey, if the Martians won't do it, why not us?"

      Corrected that for you.

      • by stooo ( 2202012 )

        "I think we need to send robotic machines to Mars to build railways to bring the ice to the regions where the cold is a bit less extreme. Hey, if the Martians won't do it, why not us?"

        Sorry, I forgot to correct that other error...

  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Thursday October 01, 2015 @07:02AM (#50634229) Journal

    Also, a budget padding enthusiasts wet dream.

    It suggests 3 (three) separate trips for what can be achieved by 1 (one). Namely, getting astronauts to Mars surface for a prolonged stay and an extensive scientific mission.

    First, send astronauts to hop around on Phobos in 2033.
    Then, send astronauts to land on Mars in 2039 - and fuck off back to Earth almost immediately.
    Then, in 2043, send astronauts for a year-long stay on Mars.

    Supposedly, (paper is paywalled) "each mission campaign would build on previous campaigns, leaving a legacy and new capabilities for those that follow."

    Except the cost of all three missions is in getting to Mars orbit and back.
    And if the last mission is supposed to last a whole year on Mars, a full DECADE after the first mission, and 4 years after the second one - they are NOT carrying ANY supplies or building ANY infrastructure on or near Mars surface.
    For a simple reason that you can't rely on anything still being there in working order 10 years in the future.
    Or 6. Or 4.
    You can't even use the SAME FUCKING PEOPLE as they will be a decade older and maybe dead or maybe doing another job.
    Astronauts have to eat too, you know.

    Further, anything done on Phobos has fuck all to do with any following mission. They are not gonna build a base there or store supplies - it's a hop-around mission.
    And should a second mission happen, only reason why not to stay there for a whole year is - SUPPLIES! Or the lack there of.
    Which won't be there because... "Meh... not this time. We'll bring it the next time. Not right now. Later."

    This is NOTHING like an Apollo missions to the Moon.
    This is like swimming to America from Scotland, getting to Liberty Island, eating a sandwich brought with you, then swimming back home.
    Then, 6 years later, do the same thing - only climbing out of the water in New York Harbor, sleeping over night in Central Park, eating another sandwich in the morning (again brought from back home) and swimming back to Europe.
    THEN, 4 more years later, you take another swim across the ocean, only instead of taking a sandwich, this time you take a credit card and you spend a year living in USA.

    Oh and yeah... Each trip there is a team of thousands of people and dozens of boats sailing right next to you and keeping you safe from the sharks and tigers (You don't know... maybe there are tigers along the way... better safe than sorry.), tweetering your progress online and whatnot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except the cost of all three missions is in getting to Mars orbit and back.

      Getting from low Earth orbit to Mars orbit and back costs you 9.4 km/s ( ref [wikipedia.org]). Adding a landing on Phobos while you're there costs you an extra 2.0 km/s. Adding a landing on Mars costs you an extra 11.0 km/s. Planets are annoyingly unwilling to let visitors go.

      And remember, those delta-v costs aren't additive: they're exponential, with a constant of your exhaust velocity (~4.5 km/s). So the extra 9 km/s to touch down on Mars rather than Phobos makes your launch mass, and your cost, increase by a factor o

  • landing on the Martian surface in the late 2030s

    The US being the Hare, who is the tortoise? Hint: they all live in China.

  • by KatchooNJ ( 173554 ) <Katchoo716@gmail . c om> on Thursday October 01, 2015 @08:41AM (#50634643) Homepage

    Fess up... it's for all the leather goddesses, right?

    >lewd

    • by t0qer ( 230538 )

      >Fess up... it's for all the leather goddesses, right?

      Came here for this, wasn't disappointed.

      • >Fess up... it's for all the leather goddesses, right?

        Came here for this, wasn't disappointed.

        Heh... had to be done. ;-) At least someone remember's the reference.

        >tame

  • The place was occupied by Cabal, and now is infested with Taken. I say burn it down or leave it for the trash heap it is.
  • A human mission to Phobos would make more sense if we placed many more robotic probes on Mars' surface first. The astronauts on Phobos could then control them in near real time, allowing parallel exploration of many locations the planet's surface, rather than a single landing spot.
    • That's actually an interesting idea. Not sure it would work. Since the probes transmit to Earth and vice versa could they be oriented to transmit to Phobos? Could you reorient back to Earth? Would you need different transmitters one point to Phobos the other Earth? But it would still seem like a waste because astronauts collect the data and what take it him or transmit it back to earth. So in reality all you get is quicker control which is not all that necessary. It's not like you are telling it to g
  • I tend to agree that a human visit to Mars is premature. With current technological knowledge, we could not make a self sustaining colony. We'd just visit for a little while and leave, accomplishing little. The goal absolutely has to be self sustainability. That means--first and foremost--understanding how/where to get air, water, food, and shelter. That means understanding how to manufacture--onsite--the tools we need to do this, because bringing them with us is not an affordable option. The obvious
  • Everything I read about the search for alien life, and the search for new places for Humanity to live seems to follow an unquestioned narrative about how do we find a Sunlike star? How do we find an Earthlike planet? When are we going to colonize Mars and Venus? Wheeee!

    The only natural place Mankind can live properly is on Earth. Other places can be made survivable, if you're willing to live under domes or in tunnels like frail, albino morlocks. But gravity is one thing we can never make right. And it's
  • Shamelessly stolen joke... I thought it was funny enough to steal, and this discussion needs to lighten up anyway. Wish I could credit the original source.

    Intercepted text conversation:

    Mars: Come over
    NASA: But you're 33.9 million miles away
    Mars: I'm wet
    NASA: I'm coming over

"Intelligence without character is a dangerous thing." -- G. Steinem

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