Missions to Mars Moon Phobos Designed in Caltech Space Challenge

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PASADENA -- The future is Phobos.

Two international teams of students both selected the Mars moon for their submissions in the Caltech Space Challenge, a one-week design contest to create viable space exploration missions.

The teams were asked to choose between sending humans to two Mars moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos became the popular pick because it's close to the Red Planet, has more surface area for landing and has greater potential for scientific findings such as water.

Both mission designs are only concepts, but just like the first contest in 2011, organizers intend the student projects to be considered by NASA for future manned space exploration.

"We had some very hard engineering aspects that came up midway through our project, and we excelled phenomenally as a team to complete those in a short amount of time, so I was very, very pleased with what were able to acomplish," said Team Voyager leader Andrew Dahir of Texas A&M at Commerce.

Team Voyager won the competition, making that its second consecutive victory.

Both designs included robotic precursor missions, essentially scouting out Phobos before sending humans to the small, irregularly shaped moon. …