A group of Russian, Italian and American scientists have proposed the creation of a long-term habitable base on the Martian moon of Phobos, and are expected to present their ideas at the upcoming Korolev Academic Space Conference 2020 in Moscow next week.
“Such a base could be created if, in the long term, it is determined that conducting an in-depth study of Mars and managing the construction of infrastructure on the planet is convenient not directly from the Martian surface, but using an intermediary manned base on Phobos,” an excerpt from a report by academics from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, the Moscow Architectural Institute, the University of Genoa and the University of Houston seen by Sputnik reads.
Scientists list multiple benefits to a Phobos base, including its comparative low cost, and the opportunity it presents for the comfortable remote control of complex robotic systems on the Martian surface in real time.
The scientists believe that the construction of an inhabitable base on Phobos will require the use of non-conventional construction methods, since the moon’s soil consists of a loose mixture of dust and low density rock formations, as well as extremely low levels of gravity (0.0057 m/s2 compared to 9.807 m/s2 on Earth). This level of surface gravity is low enough that one could easily throw a basketball directly into space from its surface.
For this reason, the scientists propose several engineering solutions, including the installation of support anchors to be installed deep in the ground using the force generated by impact with the surface during a high-speed landing. This is followed by the delivery of robots, which will be responsible for setting up a network of support cables, and the digging of pits for the placement of base modules, among other duties.
Academics propose the deployment of six cosmonauts to a completed Phobos base aboard a single module including sleeping quarters, kitchen, bathrooms and training hall, storage area, repair facility and equipment for controlling robots. The next phase includes the addition of more modules to enable to grow exhaustible resources, including a greenhouse with equipment for biomedical experiments.
Russia is no stranger to the exploration of Mars and its moons. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the USSR launched a series of spacecraft including flyby probes, orbiters and landers, providing humanity with its first detailed glimpse of the Red Planet. In 1988, the country launched a pair of probes to study Mars, Phobos and Deimos under the Phobos Programme. Unfortunately, the Phobos 1 probe was accidentally shut down by an erroneous command from ground control and lost en route. Phobos 2 made it to Mars’ orbit in early 1989 and transmitted several dozen images back to Earth, but soon also lost contact with ground control. The Phobos probes carried nearly two dozen complex tools, including a TV imaging system and a variety of measurement instruments, including x-ray and ultraviolet telescopes, radar, radiation detectors, and more. Phobos 2 also featured an autonomous lander designed to get a better idea of the Martian surface. The Phobos programme served as the first detailed mission to probe the Red Planet ahead of a manned mission, with a follow-up mission attempted in 1996, but never reaching Mars due to launch failure. Russia launched the Phobos-Grunt mission in 2011, but it also failed to leave near-Earth orbit.
The Korolev Academic Space Conference will kick off in Moscow on January 28 and run until January 31, and will include plenary sessions, discussions and round tables involving scientists, businessmen, and officials from Russia and other countries.