10 mysteries of the mission Phobos-Grunt

Why the Russian space science mission to the satellite of Mars?

According to the schedule start of the expedition "Phobos-Grunt" is scheduled for November 8. I write "appointed" as at the time of issue, we did not know any of the results of running, or of its possible postponement. You will read the same as it becomes known. It is assumed that the unit will hold a flight of about 11 months, will sit on Phobos, collect data and samples there, and in three years will return to Earth reentry module with 200 grams of ground satellite of Mars.

1 fly so far — not reach?

Expedition to Phobos technically extremely difficult. Until now, the soil was brought to Earth from the Moon only (we Americans). Once brought cometary dust and once a few grains of asteroids (U.S. and Japan).

Against our space is a mysterious curse. And the Soviet Union, and Russia to Mars poisoned a dozen cruises, and not one of them crowned with complete success. Only partially completed the tasks "Mars-4" and "Mars-5." The last machine "Mars-96" burned in the atmosphere five hours after launch.

To Phobos, we also flew. The last time was in 1988, when the Soviet probe "Phobos-2" spent two months on the Martian orbit, but lose the descent module to the surface of the satellite so I could not.

Since then, the Soviet Union and then Russia and deep space not visited. 23 years — a big break for the technology, and the best of times not cope with interplanetary flights.

Of success are two factors. The first is that this is an engineering project and its main purpose — to hide what really — not only to learn okolomarsianskoe space. It is important to make these flights possible in principle. Then you can safely work in outer space, as do the Americans are, and confidently sit on Mars itself. Therefore, the expedition prepared with care and time was postponed several times.

The second factor that works for us, is formulated unscientific and non-technology: we are tired of waiting. Such a great nation such as ours, from time to time to demonstrate to herself that she can do something else besides gas supplies to Europe.

And most of all it is necessary that young professionals who made the machine. The ratio of staff NPO. Lavochkin by age, according to the manual, the following: a half younger than thirty years old, the other half older than sixty. It is clear that direct the elders, but they have no success. For thirty years this is the first large-scale project. It is very likely that it is generally a last chance to transfer technology from the Soviet Union hands.

2 Sit — do not sit down?

Phobos — a kind of a big boulder size 27? 22? 19 km. He pitted with craters and covered with cracks (the largest crater — devyatikilometrovy Stickney). Phobos at high speed sweeps over the surface of Mars at an altitude of only 6 thousand km (for comparison, the moon is at a distance of 380 thousand kilometers from Earth). For terrestrial day Phobos time to fly around Mars three times.

In general, the object is to land a spacecraft is not the most pleasant. However, there are advantages: a small force of gravity (in 1500-3000 times smaller than the Earth's), the lack of atmosphere, and the fact that Phobos always turned to one side of Mars, that is not tumble through space. Still, it is very difficult to sit down.

— Landing site chosen in our laboratory, — says Alexander Basilevsky, head of the Laboratory of Comparative Planetology Vernadsky Institute. — We are doing such work since the establishment in 1967, when the choice space for manned missions to the Moon and then to automatic vehicles which delivered the lunar soil to Earth and lunar rovers. Landing area set ballistics — where you can fly up and back from — and we choose a specific location. On Phobos had to find a place on the back side, that is the one with which Mars is not visible. We have tried to select the most even, and therefore safe. Because if there are rocks or meter high slopes, the machine may tip over. Our employee Tanya Shingareva actively sought a place on the American map of Phobos. Now approved two landing. But the map is not made by very detailed pictures, and we are always hunting for new pictures of Phobos, which receives German camera using the "Mars Express". And the owner of the camera professor Noykum drew my attention to a place a few miles away from the already selected by us — there is a more even surface. But now it's only intention. The unit will fly to Phobos, then collect the meeting and decide to sit on the already chosen a place or a new one.

Another danger of landing is that Phobos dusty. Revolve around the pieces of matter ejected meteorites. Perhaps, the previous vehicle "Phobos-2" was killed because of a collision with some of these stones.

3 How much of Mars on Phobos?

Phobos fly so close to Mars that may well collect on some of that knock off the planet blows large meteorites. Such a big vacuum cleaner. No one, however, does not know how many millions or billions of years Phobos in orbit of Mars and how the Martian dust so he could collect (the age of the Phobos dated by the number of impact craters on the surface of the unit — they the same as on the Moon, therefore, and age is similar: about 4 billion years).

Q: how to tell a Martian material on the substance of the Phobos and many meteorites falling on the planet?

— I guess we'll find out the pieces according to the degree of oxidation. After all, Mars has an atmosphere — responsible Basilevsky. — They will probably look like crushed Martian meteorites.

Meteorites, who arrived from Mars, are sometimes found on Earth. They are different from all other meteorites, for example, the fact that the composition of gases in the pores within them is the same as in the Martian atmosphere.

4 Where did Phobos?

It is assumed that Phobos — either captured by the gravitational field of Mars asteroid, or it was formed along with Mars of the protoplanetary cloud. In appearance it is more similar to the asteroid.

Asteroids — these "nedoplanety" abundantly accumulated in orbit between Mars and Jupiter. Most of them, the so-called chondrites consist of 90% of droplets solidified silicate — chondrules. Chondrites are ordinary and carbonaceous. The first is almost dry, water, and carbon dioxide are vaporised Sun, secondly there is water and a lot of carbon, so they are black. Here Phobos just black.

— But its spectrum is not quite similar to the spectra of carbonaceous chondrites — says Basilevsky. — In addition, there are objections of some scientists. They say that if Phobos was captured by the gravity of Mars, its orbit would be extended, not circular. Phobos Grunt will solve this problem. It would be interesting if he was not just captured asteroid. Then the formation of satellites, we would have learned something new, there is very much unclear.

Indeed. Take, for example, the moon. It would seem that long ago established a Big Shot: 4.5 billion years ago the Earth crashed body the size of Mars, knocked out of her orbit is very hot stuff, and then the substance is gathered in a large satellite. Water, of course, it is not and should not be.

But a couple of years ago, a group of American scientists studied volcanic balls of orange and green glass from the lunar soil, found in Landing "Apollo 15" and "Apollo 17." Inside, found water. Very little. But then calculated how much it was in the magma from which these beads were formed: 500-700 grams per ton. Built a model that does not converge with the hypothesis of large impact.

— Field of study satellite hypothetical — says Basilevsky. — Phobos us a brick in this knowledge is put.

5 Why Phobos striped?

On Phobos is not explained until the formation — the furrow width and depth of 100-200 10-20 meters. Some stretch for tens of kilometers — almost across the entire satellite.

The oldest and primitive explanation of bands is from a meteorite impact cracks. But on Phobos have raised edges of the crack, and it should not be.

Began to look for other explanations. For example, the Englishman John Murray believes that this emissions impact craters of Mars, which, like a machine gun, bombed Phobos. That might be true, but the exact same formation recently discovered on asteroids Lutetia and Vesta, which, of course, not around Mars. There is a third hypothesis — that when the crater Stickney on Phobos surface rolled stones, traces of which we see.

— The stone must bounce on the bumps and leave gaps. And the band go through Phobos craters continuously — says Basilevsky. — Also on the West Side bands are huge, wide, twenty kilometers (itself a very large asteroid — 500 km. — "PP"). To make such a furrow should be dvadtsatikilometrovaya stone. And, as a geologist, I know that the array will always be cracked. And to find dvadtsatikilometrovaya rock that swept hundreds of kilometers would not fall apart, it is unrealistic.

6 Why Phobos has not fallen?

Phobos slowly falls to the Mars orbit each year it decreased by 9 cm is estimated he must finally fall approximately in 10-11 million years, that is, in astronomical terms soon. Why is such an exceptional event occurs almost in front of us, if before the satellite safely flew 4 billion years?

— All rare events happen once — said Basilevsky. — In addition, we do not know what it was before. Perhaps a hundred of Phobos, and they've fallen.

7 Is there ice inside Phobos?

The water in the solar system — a common occurrence. The farther away from the sun, the more it. Some satellites of giant planets — huge ice balls, and trillions of comets in general flies a distance of about one light-year from the Sun. On the other hand, within the orbit of Mars, a little water (it is believed that the Earth comets brought water too). Phobos — just one of those objects that can contain it. The fact that it has a very small density of stone asteroid.

— Such a density can either be due to a number of cracks, or because the body of Phobos a lot of ice, up to a third of all matter — says Basilevsky. — There are different hypotheses, such as the body might look like. For example, a large asteroid Mathilde at the same or even lower density. Now astronomers have come up with what may have once one asteroid crashed into the other, they are fragmented into pieces, and then came together again under the influence of gravity. This hypothesis is called the "pile of rubble." Perhaps there are some asteroids, but Matilda the crater show that if it is porous, then a microscopic scale. So maybe Phobos. We have little understanding of how such a body can be formed. Indeed, the Earth does not get such meteorites, falling apart in the atmosphere, so we do not have samples.

8 Could Phobos be an alien spaceship?

This hypothesis was put forward in 1959 by the famous Soviet astronomer Iosif Shklovsky. He drew attention to the details of the XIX century the orbit of Phobos and compared them with modern ones. It turned out that a satellite of Mars in a century greatly accelerated. This meant that its orbit was lower. The main force of braking — the atmosphere, but at the height of 6 thousand miles it is almost there. Shklovsky calculated its influence, it was that so hard to reduce the satellite can only be the case if the density is a hundred times lower than the density of water.

Imagine a density at the natural body was difficult, and Shklovsky suggested that the satellite — is a hollow shell inside a spacecraft or station. Now the density of Phobos is more or less clearly established, and it is believed that the observations of the XIX century were wrong (unless, of course, not to fantasize that the "ship" included brake motors).

— Echidna people then said, looking at the craters, "It rivets Shklovsky," — said Basilevsky.

9 Is there life on Phobos?

Question of the series, "Is there life on Mars." Martian material on Phobos should be much higher than on Earth, and if Mars were once living organisms, on Phobos, we can find their remains.

After all, even on Earth in Martian meteorites found something similar to the former bacteria. For example, in 1996, U.S. researchers found in a meteorite ALH84001 something similar to the following microorganisms.

— To knock meteorites strike on Mars must be so strong that it will kill all living things, if it was there — explains Basilevsky. — It was once thought. But there is an American physicist J. Milos, who showed that the upper zone of the surface of Mars, on the order of several meters, beating not so much. There will never be achieved killing pressure. Since Martian meteorites arrive on Earth for billions of years, then there's nothing dangerous, probably not. Maybe something was flown into lifeless on the earth, and with it began our life. That is, we can be the children of Martian life. Then we really have nothing to fear.

Still working with the soil, brought from Phobos will be in maximum security laboratories and quarantine hold on fifth highest category in the classification of the International Committee on Space Research, COSPAR.

10 Do crabs survive on Phobos?

To Phobos and back proputeshestvuyut two capsules of bacteria, microorganisms, fungi, seeds, plants and animals — all 49 samples. For example, flies a few species of small crustaceans. Experiment "BioFobos-Cryostasis" conducted by the Institute of Biomedical Problems, its purpose — to study the influence of three years of hard cosmic radiation on organisms. So far, no one has ever put such experiments, so that we do not know what plants sprout after the test and which animals will survive. In parallel, the same kinds sent in August to the ISS, then to compare the conditions of deep space and orbital protected from radiation by the magnetic field of the Earth.

— For the bacteria I'm calm, — said Natalia Novikova, head of the Laboratory of Microbiology of the environment and antimicrobial defense IBMP. — They live in the water circuits of nuclear reactors, so will survive in deep space. Of other species can not yet say. We'll see.

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