"If this technology is designed to go to Mars and back, let's send it to Mars and back," said Steve Squyres, chairman of the advisory committee, according to the Houston Chronicle. NASA is not bound by the committee's finding, but it does add fuel to those who are impatient for a spaceflight to Mars.
Phobos is a small moon of Mars, about 7 miles across, and the committee thinks NASA could sell a mission to a Mars satellite to the public much easier than an asteroid mission.
"To validate the SEP stage you don't need to tow around a large rock," Squyres said.
SEP stands for "solar electric propulsion," which is the next technology the agency has decided to test. SEP would cut the cost of a mission to Mars by one-tenth of the cost for conventional chemical propulsion. If the spacecraft is only full of cargo, no one on board would mind the longer flight time.
The asteroid retrieval mission (ARM) was slated to test SEP, but the $1.25 billion mission has been panned by scientists and much of Congress, according to the Houston Chronicle.
According to the Houston Chronicle, former Goddard Space Flight Center director and council member Thomas Young told NASA: "What we really should be saying is terminate ARM, take the $1.25 billion and apply it to the technology to get people to Mars. That's the cold hard facts of what we're saying."