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NewSpace 2010: Forget Mars, Let’s Go to Deimos!

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 24, 2010

Challenges of Human Spaceflight
Dr. Jim Logan – Space Medicine Associates


Radiation problems make living on the moon and Mars problematic. Asteroids and the Martian moon Deimos could be settled  by humans while allowing for both resource extraction and exploration.

The Problem

  • Exploration and long-term settlement of the moon and Mars will be very difficult given the amount of radiation exposure
  • Cannot have habitats on the surface – crew members will be very limited in their ability to do surface sorties in spacesuits
  • Thus, the moon and Mars may never be more than sortie destinations
  • To live an extended time on the surface of moon and Mars, they would have to live like ants, earthworms or moles in buried habitats
  • Need robotic precursor missions to scout destinations and prepare sites for human habitation
  • Must determine “gravity prescriptions” for people, plants and animals for health and safety

The Solutions

Settlements on Asteroids and Martian Moon Deimos

  • Low delta-vs
  • Lots of resources
  • Little or no gravity well
  • At or near Earth normal gravity for people, plants and animals
  • Natural radiation protection
  • Permit large redundant ecosystems
  • Launch site for missions
  • Easier to get to Phobos and Deimos in terms of energy than it is to get to the moon


  • Go an asteroid, burrow in, use resources to create habitats, and settle in
  • Mass of asteroid provides natural radiation protection
  • Take our own gravity with us by creating a rotating habitat inside the asteroid

Deimos Option

  • Explore Mars with forward deployed human settlements on Deimos
  • Third largest NEO-class object
  • Escape velocity – 12.5 mph
  • 20,000 kilometers from the Martian surface
  • Just above aerosynchronous orbit
  • Launch window every 2.14 years
  • Visualize all of Mars except extreme polar regions
  • Humans in the loop tele-presence exploration of Mars from Deimos

The Plan

  • 1,000 day mission to Deimos
  • 240 days outbound
  • 469 day Deimos stay
  • Significant use of heavy-lift technology

6 responses to “NewSpace 2010: Forget Mars, Let’s Go to Deimos!”

  1. Trent waddington says:

    The presentation today was significantly compressed compared to the 3 hour session at ISDC. What was lost was the argument on artificial gravity. Logan puts forward the case that all the evidence so far indicates that anything other than a full Earth gravity (possibly within a 10% margin) is needed for full human reproductive capacity, and almost all experts in the field agree with that analysis. This aggressively rules out Moon and Mars as future homes for humanity. That aggressiveness hasn’t won Logan a lot of friends and I saw it again today from people in the audience and viewers online. This is the curse of space life sciences research.. bad news is not received objectively by our emotionally attached community.

  2. JohnHunt says:

    > Significant use of heavy-lift technology
    > Need robotic precursor missions to…prepare sites for human habitation

    Two great arguments for going to the Moon instead.

    You telerobotically prepare the Moon but not Deimos. True, the Moon has greater delta-v than Deimos. But ISRU operations can be established on the Moon using only Falcon 9 Heavy-sized lifters. If lunar-derived oxygen propellant could then be brought back to LEO, then even humans could be transported to the lunar surface using only F9Hs.

    Let’s take the multi-billions on HLV development and operations and develop cis-lunar space capabilities. When this is accomplished, all missions to an asteroid, Deimos, and Mars could then be done at far less cost and more frequently.

  3. JohnHunt says:


    > bad news is not received objectively by our emotionally attached community.

    True, but that is not always a bad thing. It reflect the strong desire to find a way to achieve human expansion into space. And it is the people who strongly desire to achieve this who are more likely than the people who are quick to give up this goal who will possibly find a solution.

  4. Doug says:

    That is so absurd it boggles my mind. Why go to all the expense only to stop on the doorstep? I would raise holy hell if my space tax dollars were spent in such a manor. If I’m going to Mars I’m landing on Mars. Some commercial company wants to foot the bill to go to the martian moons fine BUT NOT WITH MY TAX DOLLARS. I have had a belly full of these types of off the wall ideas. If this is the type of nonsense we are going to spend our tax dollars on then just drop the entire manned space program. That is a privately funded mission not a public funded tax based mission.

    Look but don’t touch really gets under my skin and outrages me to no end. Total cop-out! Un American, and boarder lines on cowardly. If our nations space program can’t deal with gravity wells and space radiation etc… then better just stay home and leave the business of deep space exploration up to more determined and capable country.

    If a person or a company wants to pursue martian moon landing with private funds and angel investment funds go for it. I will back it all the way just keep my tax dollars and our national manned space program out it.

  5. Charles Grimm says:

    I expect to live on the surface of mars and the moon, with large windows to view the sky an surface. Inflatable habitats, with an appropriate thickness of regolith filled sandbags, will protect me from radiation. Sandbags and mirrors allow windows without radiation hazard. My moonmobile will have strategically placed sandbags as well, allowing me to motor around in my vehicle, with my space suit reserved for interesting stops along the way. I expect my moonmobile to provide some shielding when I am near it, scouting the terrain.
    As far as gravity goes, 2 moonmobiles on a long tether make a 1+ G centrifuge. How many hours of 1.5 G make up for how many hours of 1/3 or 1/6 G? We’ll find out.

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