reply to post by jazz10
Ok, Basically I asked a bunch of questions and here is the email reply:
The Mars Express project is obviously focussed on the planet Mars, but since our orbit is very well suited for the study of Phobos (every 5 months we
flyby the moon), we regularly pay a lot of attention to this tiny moon. Why? because, as you may have read, the origin of Phobos is a matter of
debate. And the Mars Express instruments are very good for the study of Phobos: we take spectra in the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, we take very
high resolution images, we used our radar, we measure the gravity field. We even study the interaction between the surface and the solar wind. With
such an excellent set of instruments, designed to study Mars, it would be a pity not to use them at Phobos, from times to times! It becomes more and
more a very important scientific goal for our Mars Express mission. Furthermore, our data help the preparation of the Russian Phobos Sample Return
mission, planned to be launched in 2011. We have a very good collaboration with our Russian colleagues.
With the Mars Express images, we have now a better estimation of the Phobos shape and hence volume. With the Mars Express radio-science data, we have
a very precise determination of the mass. Therefore, the density is well known: 1.9 g/cm3. With this density and from what we know about small bodies,
we do have reasons to believe that Phobos is not a complete solid body. In other words, Phobos is porous. What is the content of porosity? Maybe 30%.
So, Phobos may be hollow. We have performed in March a special gravity experiment with Mars Express, which hopefully will tell us in the coming months
how the mass is distributed inside Phobos.
Difficult to say. Manned missions to the Moon and Mars are not clear. These are very ambitious projects. So, speaking about a manned mission to Phobos
is too much speculation at this point. The interesting point is that, for some technical reasons, it is easier to land on Phobos than on Mars. Having
a base on Phobos is an ideal viewpoint for observing and monitoring Mars. I also think that studying Phobos can be useful for the study Mars, simply
because MAYBE Phobos is made of material from Mars.
If you want to know what ESA thinks, you can always read www.esa.int .
About Phobos in particular, I am not aware of any plans.
At the moment, there are no plans. However, ESA issues regular calls for new missions. And for the next call, there will be maybe some ideas about
missions at Phobos! Who knows. Personnally, I hope so. But it is clear that we need to wait for the results of the Russian mission, the sample return,
before making any new plans.
Mars Express Project Scientist
[edit on 19/4/10 by Cybernet]