back to article Red (Planet) alert: Future astro-heroes face shocking adventures on Martian moon Phobos

Strong solar eruptions may be blasting the Martian moon Phobos with an avalanche of electrically charged particles, charging parts of it to hundreds of volts, and hampering attempts to land on and study the alien landscape. Interest in human spaceflight to Mars has ramped up as scientists keep finding promising signs that the …

  1. Andrew Commons

    There are Puns and Punishment

    And that heading is the latter. The machine-pun approach does not befit El Reg. It may lead to negative feelings, sparks may fly, charges may be laid.

    1. David Roberts Silver badge

      Re: There are Puns and Punishment

      Revolting approach. Watts the world coming to?

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        To El Reg

        Don't worry about them above. Just give us mho' puns.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: There are Puns and Punishment

      It's not the puns as such but the rate of change of puns with respect to time you need to worry about.

      1. AbelSoul

        Re: rate of change of puns with respect to time

        Yes, people can be quite resistant to that.

      2. oldcoder

        Re: There are Puns and Punishment

        That would make it dpun/dt

    3. ravenviz

      Re: There are Puns and Punishment


      1. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: There are Puns and Punishment

        You all need to learn how to conduct yourselves better.

  2. Neoc

    Wonder if the effect could be used to recharge the base's batteries...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Switch to

    Ion drive.

    (apologies to TOS fans)

    Also this is intriguing. Could the same effect be responsible for lunar luminosity events (aka TLEs) where some mineral or other charges up and emits light in the near vacuum like a phosphor on a VFD?

    This could be an effective way to prove existence of said mineral(s) on the Moon, Mars and Phobos.

    (VFD=Vacuum Fluorescent Display)

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    What happened last time?

    Apollo astronauts went to moon in daylight, but shadowed areas of the moon could build up an electrostatic charge.

    Is ESD on Phobos more dangerous than Earth? Careless humans can easily zap chips with an 8kV discharge on a hot dry day.

    1. redpawn Silver badge

      Re: What happened last time?

      Forgotten knowledge becomes new again at about the same rate that old music comes back in style. It does not matter that it was common knowledge or experience, its rediscovery becomes new discovery.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Guessing it's worse than a spark off a nylon carpet on a dry day.

    By quite a lot.

    AIUI all the Apollo expeditions were during the 2 week lunar day, hence no chance to observe "charge separation" in action.

    It sounds spectacular.

    But not in a good way.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "But like my man Fiddy said..."

    "Get settled or die trying."

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it really a problem?

    Hmm... an electrical charge can only build up on an insulator, and from the article, it seems that the build-up of a charge will be due to charged particles of dust adhering to the outside of the space suit, so why not make the outer layer of the suit conductive1, make 'Phobosing' yourself via suitably positioned grounding points SOP and design everything that's intended to operate on Phobos with this in mind.

    In the context of problems with working on Phobos, this seems like a relatively minor one.

    1. I'm sure some people will instinctively think that a conductive outer layer on a space suit is potentially dangerous because it could lead to short-circuits but they should remember that a) our bodies are already conductive and b) there's no reason to design stuff with exposed electrics.

  9. Len Goddard

    Controlling landers?

    From a base on a rock in an 8 hour orbit so close in that you can't even see above about 70 latitude? Hardly

    1. ravenviz

      Re: Controlling landers?

      Maybe those within 70 degrees latitude? That's a lot of latitudes.

      1. Len Goddard

        Re: Controlling landers?

        The real problem is that you would lose sight of the lander for better than half of each 8 hour orbit no matter where on the surface it was located.

    2. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Controlling landers?

      You simply control through a network of small communications satellites, not directly from Phobos to the surface. Either that, or you organise your work to suit the time slots available. That's all you'd need in this first generation expedition.

  10. Tom 64

    >"fast gusts of solar wind"

    Why did I read this as 'fast guffs of solar wind'? ...

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