- Conference date: 30 Jan - 3 Feb 2000
- Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA)
The Ph-D (Phobos-Deimos) mission involves the transfer of six to eight men (and women), including two medical scientists, from Earth orbit to Deimos, the outer satellite of Mars. There follows a sequential program of unmanned exploration of the surface of Mars by means of some ten to twenty unmanned rover vehicles, each of which returns Mars samples to the Deimos laboratory. A two-man sortie descends to the surface of Mars to gain a direct geological perspective and develop priorities in selecting samples. At the same time, other astronauts conduct a coordinated program of exploration (including sample studies) of Phobos and Deimos. Bringing men close to Mars to control exploration is shown to have scientific and other advantages over either (i) (manned) control from the Earth, or (ii) manned operations from Mars surface. The mission is envisaged to take place after 2010, and to last about two years (including a three-to six-month stay at Deimos). Depending on then-available technology, take-off weight from Earth orbit is of the order of 300 tons. A preferred mission scheme may preposition propellants and equipment at Deimos by means of “slow freight,” possibly using a “gravity boost” from Venus. It is then followed by a “manned express” that conveys the astronauts more rapidly to Deimos. Both chemical and electric propulsion are used in this mission, as appropriate. Electric power is derived from solar and nuclear sources. Assuming that certain development costs can be shared with space-station programs, the incremental cost of the project is estimated as less than $40 billion (in 1998 dollars), expended over a 15-year period. The potential scientific returns are both unique and important: (i) Establishing current or ancient existence of life-forms on Mars; (ii) Understanding the causes of climate change by comparing Earth and Mars; (iii) Martian planetary history; (iv) Nature and origin of the Martian moons. Beyond the Ph-D Project, many advanced programs beckon; discussed here are exploitation of Martian resources, Martian “agriculture”, and the possibility of planetary engineering experiments that can benefit survival on the Earth.
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