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Why the ‘Super Weird’ Moons of Mars Fascinate Scientists

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Mars is the darling of many planetary scientists, who continue to visit it through increasingly advanced robotic explorers. But don’t forget that our planetary neighbor is adorned with two moons: puny Phobos, a lumpy mass 17 miles across; and diminutive Deimos, just 9 miles long. Their names in ancient Greek may mean “fear” and “dread’, but the aesthetics of these Lilliputian space potatoes inspire anything but.

They don’t look anywhere near as interesting as the volcanic or icy-ocean moons of Jupiter and Saturn, nor is their desolation as extreme or diverse as Earth’s moon. But that hasn’t stopped generations of planetary scientists from being eager to get a closer look at the ramshackle duo.

The Soviet Union and, later, Russia have tried three times to reach Phobos, but software errors and launch disasters have doomed every attempt. Scientists in the U.S. have tried and, so far, failed to convince the powers-that-be at NASA that a mission to the two moons will be worthwhile. The next great hope is Japan, which is aiming to launch a heist mission to Phobos in 2024 that will try to steal some of its rocks.

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A close-up view of Phobos, the larger of Mars’s two moons. It is 17 miles across.

A close-up view of Phobos, the larger of Mars’s two moons. It is 17 miles across.Credit…NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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Click the link below for article:

https://www.nytimes.com

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