Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Residents of Phobos

I find Phobos, the larger of the two moons of Mars, one of the most intriguing natural satellites in the Solar-System. And so do the world’s space agencies, it seems.

At only around 22 kilometres in diameter it is very small as moons go, and its lack of an atmosphere makes it appear relatively uninteresting when compared to the large moons of the outer planets, such as Titan, Europa and Triton.

It is far from uninteresting.

The European Mars Express probe has recently made some close approaches to Phobos. As well as returning yet more stunning photos of the moon, the probe confirmed something that was first speculated in the 1950s – Phobos is not solid. It contains ‘voids’ beneath its surface, and some of them are very large. The potential uses for such concealed natural spaces are numerous, the most obvious being as research and surveillance facilities, and hanger bays.

I believe the voids have been in use, but they have now been abandoned.

Until very recently there was a very high failure rate for space probes bound for Mars and its moons, far higher than you would expect for such an apparently benign environment. Russia once attempted a landing on Phobos. The attempt failed. All missions to Phobos so far have failed.

In a year or two Russia will send its Phobos-Grunt lander down to the surface of Phobos to analyse the rocks and return samples to Earth. If that succeeds then we can be sure that the alien ‘presence’ that had been utilising the moon’s natural sub-surface facilities will have left. The only way we will find out more about them is to dig into the moon and explore the maze of caverns far below its surface. Such a mission should be given the highest of priorities as some evidence of the former residents of Phobos is highly likely to exist down there.

But I wonder: if they have indeed left, where did they go? And why were they there?

There seems to have been a huge resurgence of interest in the red planet and its moons over the last decade, and there is far more known or suspected about Phobos than the authorities admit. There has been no adequate explanation of the grooves on its surface, nor of the 'monolith'.

It is a most interesting place.

1 comment:

  1. Phobos could well be a natural asteroid captured by Mars's gravity. The voids could be related to the speculated 'loose packed' nature of asteroids, in that they are thought to be 'pieces' of space debris that have come together in the outer reaches of the solar system. This could account for the voids detected.

    However, it is unlikely that Mars would capture two such asteroids, or that Phobos, if a 'loose packed' object, could have sustained the sort of impact needed to make the famous crater in its surface.

    These were probably brought into orbit around Mars for some reason, possibly mining, maybe as bases or something else. Whatever the reason they are both enormously interesting and might yield some extereme surprises - not that we will ever hear about them.