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Mars Express heading towards daring flyby of Phobos

Posted on December 27, 2013
Mars Express heading towards daring flyby of Phobos

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard the ESA spacecraft Mars Express took this image of Phobos using the HRSC nadir channel on 7 March 2010, HRSC Orbit 7915. This image has additionally been enhanced photometrically for better bringing features in the less illuminated part. Resolution: about 4.4 meters per pixel. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
Late this month, ESA’s Mars Express will make the closest flyby yet of the Red Planet’s largest moon Phobos, skimming past at only 45 km above its surface.

 

The flyby on 29 December will be so close and fast that Mars Express will not be able to take any images, but instead it will yield the most accurate details yet of the moon’s gravitational field and, in turn, provide new details of its internal structure.

As the spacecraft passes close to Phobos, it will be pulled slightly off course by the moon’s gravity, changing the spacecraft’s velocity by no more than a few centimetres per second. These small deviations will be reflected in the spacecraft’s radio signals as they are beamed back to Earth, and scientists can then translate them into measurements of the mass and density structure inside the moon.

Earlier flybys, including the previous closest approach of 67 km in March 2010, have already suggested that the moon could be between a quarter and a third empty space – essentially a rubble pile with large spaces between the rocky blocks that make up the moon’s interior.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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