[FPSPACE] Phobos First !!

David Portree dsfportree at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 14 19:37:00 EDT 2015

I think these advisors are missing something important - that the asteroid mission was selected in part because it would not split the community. We have serious moon and Mars advocates, and they are at loggerheads, but not so much serious asteroid advocates (speaking of piloted missions, here). Of course, there are plenty of good reasons not to send humans to asteroids and ARM has evolved into something ludicrous, but advice from a high-level group that just assumes that Mars is widely accepted as the next goal for human spaceflight cannot help but be polarizing.
We actually do need interim steps before we land humans on Mars, but going all the way to Mars and inserting into orbit kind of misses the point. We need to work out how much artificial gravity is enough, for one thing, which is why I advocate for a variable-gravity space station as a next step after ISS. It's a good transitional step because the variable-gravity station could serve as a prototype for a piloted artificial-gravity interplanetary spacecraft. Astronauts on board would study themselves during progressively longer stays under lunar gravity, Mars gravity, and perhaps some level between Mars and Earth gravity. 
Small bodies are turning out to be difficult places to work. Given the record so far, there's good reason to suppose that ARM would not be able to retrieve a boulder from an asteroid. Similarly, it seems likely that surprises will await us on Phobos and Deimos. Osiris-REX and Hayabusa 2 might have some things to teach us that could lead us to rethink how we would conduct robotic Phobos and Deimos missions. Personally, I'd like to see an asteroid mission that bumps around on the surface of kilometer-scale body and purposely stirs things up by drilling, setting off explosives, shooting projectiles into the surface, planting an anchor and trying to pull away, etc.
Always dreaming!

David S. F. Portree

dsfportree at hotmail.com
dportree at usgs.gov 

> Date: Mon, 13 Apr 2015 15:19:25 -0400
> From: clj at panix.com
> To: fpspace at lists.friends-partners.org
> Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] Phobos First !!
> On 4/13/2015 7:46 AM, dstdba wrote:
> > In all probability Phobos is a captured asteroid, so no great deal
> > really.
> >
> > And certainly common sense dictates that the sequence of places in
> > the solar system for humans to visit is Moon, Martian moons, Mars.
> I've certainly heard the theory about Phobos and Deimos being captured
> asteroids, although it's somewhat hard to explain how they ended up in
> low-eccentricity near-equatorial orbits as a result.  I also agree
> either or both Martian moons are a good precursor mission for humans to
> undertake prior to a Martian landing, but I don't reject out of hand
> visits to NEOs, though I'd rather see more robotic missions beforehand
> (including close flybys or orbits, landings, and potentially more sample
> returns).
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