From where did Phobos arise or arrive? The Inner or Outer Solar System? Is it dry or wet? Should we flyby or sample & return? Or should it be Boots or Bots? In the illustration, space probes (L-R) Phobos-Grunt 2, JPL/SAR, ARC PADME. Also, Stardust’s return capsule, Phobos above Mars, the Solar Nebula and the MRO HiRISE photo of Phobos. (Photos: NASA, Illustration:T.Reyes)
Three prominent planetary scientists have joined forces in a new paper [The value of Phobos sample return] in the journal Planetary and Space Science to explain the case for a mission to the moons of Mars, particularly Phobos.
“Phobos occupies a unique position physically, scientifically, and programmatically on the road to exploration of the solar system,” say the scientists. In addition, the moons may possibly be a source of in situ resources that could support future human exploration in circum-Mars space or on the Martian surface. But a sample return mission first could provide details on the moons’ origins and makeup.
• Phobos resembles D-type objects typical of the outer asteroid belt and Jovian space.
• It has accumulated a small amount of Martian ejecta in its regolith.
• A returned sample is the most definitive test for models of the moon׳s origin.
• Phobos or Deimos may provide in situ resources for future human explorers.
Phobos occupies a unique position physically, scientifically, and programmatically on the road to exploration of the solar system. It is a low-gravity object moderately inside the gravity well of Mars. Scientifically, it is both an enigma and an opportunity: an enigma because the origins of both it and Deimos are uncertain, and provide insights into formation of the terrestrial planets; and an opportunity because Phobos may be a waypoint or staging point for future human exploration of the Mars system. Phobos is a low albedo, spectrally bland body with a red-sloped continuum. It appears similar to D-type objects more commonly found in the outer asteroid belt and Jovian space (Rivkin et al., 2002), but occurs in an orbit that is difficult to explain by capture (Burns, 1992). It might have a primitive composition like that inferred for outer solar system objects or it could be related to Mars and, for example, be composed of Martian basin ejecta. Regardless, Phobos has acted as a witness plate to Martian debris over the age of the solar system. The moons may possibly be a source of in situ resources that could support future human exploration in circum-Mars space or on the Martian surface. in situ compositional analyses can address many questions relevant to preparation for future human exploration. Sample return resolves those questions while also enabling detailed analyses in terrestrial laboratories to address higher order questions, many of which have not yet been asked.
Nextbigfuture – What we observe about the galaxy and universe still allows for the existence of low mass antimatter stars, because the vast distance and low level of dust would not destroy the antimatter stars over billions of years.
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