"Phobos is doomed."
Ever seen a Moon doomed to crash and burn into the Martian surface create a solar eclipse? Now you have.
NASA’s Perseverance rover captured and posted a video this week that shows Phobos, one of two Martian satellites that NASA describes as being distinctly potato-shaped, as it crossed the Sun’s surface. In a press release, the space agency said the clip will help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface.
“Scientists already know that Phobos is doomed,” NASA said in the statement. “[It’s] getting closer to the Martian surface and is destined to crash into the planet in tens of millions of years. But eclipse observations from the surface of Mars over the last two decades have also allowed scientists to refine their understanding of Phobos’ slow death spiral.”
The good news is Phobos’ inevitable demise shouldn’t happen anytime soon, which means NASA’s plans to land humans on the Martian surface are still on the table. The same presser said Perseverance is currently studying astrobiology and searching for signs of life on the Red Planet as it paves the way for human missions to touch down.
All of this work should support Artemis, NASA’s mission that should eventually land the first woman and person of color on Earth’s own Moon. Although rocket tests have been less than perfect lately, the goal is to use lessons learned from returning to our lunar surface to catapult over to Mars.
If we make it there, it’d be cool to keep the Perseverance rover around as a memorial to our accomplishments. Perhaps it could even witness the eventual demise of Phobos millennia after this week’s eclipse.
More on returning to the Moon: NASA Contractor Unveils First US Lunar Lander Since Apollo Missions