Phobos and Deimos in fiction

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Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Due to their small size, both moons were discovered only in 1877, by astronomer Asaph Hall.[1] Nevertheless, they frequently feature in works of science fiction.

Some of the earliest mentions of Mars's moons in fiction predate their discovery. In Jonathan Swift's famous satire Gulliver's Travels (1726), the astronomers of flying island Laputa are described as having discovered two satellites of Mars. Voltaire's short story "Micromégas" (1752), about alien visitors from Sirius and Saturn, also describes Mars as having two moons. Voltaire is thought to have been influenced by Swift.[2] In recognition of these mentions, many geological features of Phobos and Deimos are named after characters and places from Gulliver's Travels, including among others Laputa Regio and Lagado Planitia on Phobos,[3][4] and craters Swift and Voltaire on Deimos.[5][6]


  • In the video game UFO: Afterlight, Phobos (and Deimos) is in reality the long-dead remnant of a so-called Myrmecol, a giant space-faring alien organism.
  • In the video game Descent 3, the MD-1032 flies with the starship Pyro-GL to rescue the Doctor from Novak Corporate Prison in Phobos.
  • In part 3 chapter 3 (the "Voyage to Laputa") of Jonathan Swift's famous satire Gulliver's Travels, a fictional story first published in 1726, the astronomers of Laputa are described as having discovered two satellites of Mars. This was considerably prior to their actual discovery by Asaph Hall in 1877.
  • James Blish's 'Mission to the Heart Stars' features a hollow Phobos, which has been placed in orbit by a galactic hegemony and acts as a detector/transceiver in a similar manner to the lunar artifact in Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Sentinel'.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels, Phobos is known by the name of Thuria, and is described as "a great and glorious orb, swinging swift across the vaulted dome of the blue-black night, so low that she seemed to graze the hills" (The Chessmen of Mars). In reality, Phobos actually appears smaller from Mars than Earth's Moon does from Earth. John Carter of Mars visits a miniature civilization on Thuria in the novel Swords of Mars.
  • In the novel The Sands of Mars by Arthur C Clarke, Mars is terraformed when Phobos is ignited as a second Sun using a meson-resonance reaction.
  • In Clarke's short story "Hide and Seek" (collected in Expedition to Earth) a man evades capture by landing on Phobos.
  • In the novel Phobos the Robot Planet (also known as Lost: A Moon) by Paul Capon, Phobos is an enormous computer, the last relic of a long-vanished race of Martians. Phobos learns human languages by listening to radio broadcasts, and kidnaps humans using flying saucers in order to learn about human emotions.
  • The first episode of the video game Doom takes place in a UAC base on Phobos, where it is erroneously depicted as having mountains and an atmosphere with an overcast sky. The moon is also featured in the Doom novels, and the 2019 film adaptation Doom: Annihilation also takes place on Phobos. The Phobos base reappears in Doom Eternal.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy the first colonists build a city of low gravity architecture within the crater Stickney. Phobos later becomes a source of conflict when a false rumour is spread that permission to build a mosque there had been refused. Later, the moon is taken over by multinational forces and is then de-orbited by the Martian rebels so that it impacts Mars. Much later, an asteroid that happens to look similar to Phobos is named Pseudophobos and moved into Martian orbit to replace the original body.
  • Phobos is the final mission in the video game Armored Core 2. The game reveals that the moon is actually an artificial satellite created by an extinct Martian civilization. The player must battle to the center to destroy the orbit control mechanism and prevent it from crashing into Mars and destroying the newly formed Martian colonies.
  • Phobos is the final level in the PlayStation 2 game Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (2003) where it is used to build a battle station called Aumaan, capable of destroying anything in the Solar System. The protagonist, Dingo Egret, fights the antagonist, Col. Noman here to stop him from activating it.
  • The video games Unreal Tournament and Unreal Tournament 2004 contain a deathmatch arena located on a satellite base of Phobos.
  • Parts of Leather Goddesses of Phobos, the interactive fiction game from Infocom, take place in fanciful interpretations of the environments of Phobos, Mars, and Venus.
  • In the Noon Universe, Phobos is discovered to be an artificial satellite, most likely, built by the Wanderers.
  • Phobos appears in two stories by Alastair Reynolds. In Great Wall of Mars it is where the Conjoiners secretly construct a starship to escape their imprisonment on Mars. Century Rain has Phobos as the location of a secret base which holds an ancient relic that opens a portal to the far side of the galaxy.
  • The first level of the PlayStation 2 video game RTX Red Rock takes place on a small space station anchored to the surface of Phobos.
  • Phobos is the site of Purple Hall, the abode of the ousted Imperial family, in Jack Williamson's Legion of Space novels.
  • The Eighth Doctor & Lucie Miller land on Phobos in the Doctor Who audio adventure Phobos which is popular with extreme sports fans in 2589.
  • In Dan Simmons's novel Olympos, Phobos is the site of a moravec base from which some of the main characters depart for Earth.
  • In the 1955 science fiction novel The Secret of the Martian Moons by Donald A. Wollheim, Phobos and Deimos are actually interstellar spacecraft disguised as moonlets, built by a race of humanoid aliens from the Vega system who fled from an imagined invasion by "Marauders" who were actually the inhabitants of Mars itself on an extended journey of exploration and adventure.
  • The TV show Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons features Phobos in the episode "Shadow of Fear", in which they land a secret satellite on the moon to take pictures of the Mysterons. A mention is also made by the character Dr Breck in the episode that the Greek name of Phobos is 'Fear' and states, "The name is appropriate. Because of the Mysterons, the whole world lives in the shadow of fear".
  • In Larklight, by Philip Reeve, the British Empire has spread to other planets and it is mentioned that the industrialist Sir Waverly Rain has factories on Deimos and Phobos. There are so many that smoke has clouded the worlds.
  • In the novel "Colossus and the Crab" by Dennis Feltham Jones Phobos and Deimos are living, sentient beings who wish to harvest a quarter of Earth's oxygen to protect themselves from radiation.
  • In the RPG Mutant Chronicles Phobos and Deimos were used by the Capitol Corporation who ruled Mars as Prison Planets (for men and women.) However, with the coming of the Darkness Phobos and Deimos were invaded by Troops of two of the Dark Apostles and now exist as permanent Citadels.
  • In Aliens: Infestation, Phobos is one of the locations visited throughout the game. It is the location of a base infested with Aliens.
  • In the Halo universe, Phobos is the location of a human penal colony.
  • In The V.C.s - a story that appeared in 2000 AD comic - Phobos has become Phobos Harbour, "the largest startrooper base in the Solar System". The base, and the majority of spacecraft docked there, are destroyed in an attack by the alien aggressor species, the G'egeekaje ( commonly called "the Geeks" )
  • In Destiny, Phobos has been drawn dangerously close to Mars' surface by Cabal Psion Flayers. It is prominently visible on the horizon from the surface. An old Cabal base is also located here and is the setting for the Crucible map "Black Shield."
  • In Sailor Moon, Phobos is a crow along with Deimos and are guardians of Sailor Mars. In the manga it is revealed that they have originally a human form and come from Planet Coronis.


  • In the videogame UFO: Afterlight, Deimos (and Phobos) is in reality the long-dead remnant of a so-called Myrmecol, a giant space-faring alien organism.
  • In the Videogame Descent 3, MD-1032 is recluted with a new ship to investigate Data Retention Center in Deimos.
  • In Edison's Conquest of Mars, Deimos is used as a base by Edison's expedition against the Martians.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels, Deimos is known by the name of Cluros, and is described as "stately, majestic, almost stationary, shedding his steady light upon the world below" (The Chessmen of Mars).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Green Mars (1993) includes a detailed description of a manned landing on Deimos. Deimos is later de-orbited and sent off into the asteroid belt.
  • The second episode of the video game Doom takes place in a UAC base on Deimos. Before the beginning of the game, Deimos disappears from Martian orbit, and is reached by the unnamed Marine after he steps into a large teleporter on Phobos. Eventually, it is discovered that Deimos is floating above Hell itself. The moon is also featured in the Doom novels.
  • The UESC Marathon of the Marathon computer game series is a hollowed-out Deimos.
  • A hollowed-out Deimos is also featured in the Zone of the Enders saga of games and anime. In the series - notably the Idolo OVA - the moon serves as a linear catapult facility for launching vehicles in Mars orbit to Earth, and possibly to the Jupiter colonies as well.
  • Like Phobos, Deimos is discovered to be an artificial satellite in the Noon Universe, likely, built by the Wanderers.
  • In an episode of the 2003 Astro Boy series, "Destination Deimos", as the episode title suggests, Dr. O'Shay went to Deimos.
  • Deimos appears in Great Wall of Mars by Alastair Reynolds, as a base used to observe the Conjoiners.
  • In the 2010 novel Impact by Douglas Preston, the Voltaire crater on Deimos is the location of a machine built by an ancient extraterrestrial civilization.
  • A satellite base around Deimos is featured as a map and in the storyline of Unreal Tournament 3.
  • The Eighth Doctor & Tamsin Drew land on Deimos in the Doctor Who audio adventure Deimos, set in the 23rd Century, where Mars and its moons are popular tourist destinations. They meet the original inhabitants of Mars, the Ice Warriors.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Deimos has been transferred from its orbit to an orbit around Titan, the world of the Grey Knights chapter, to serve as their Forge World.
  • In Sailor Moon, Deimos is a crow along with Phobos and are guardians of Sailor Mars. In the manga it is revealed that they have originally a human form and come from Planet Coronis.
  • In The Expanse (TV series), Deimos is a radar base of the Martian Congressional Republic Navy, and is destroyed by Earth's United Nations Navy as a warning after the MCRN destroys the Saturnian moon Phoebe to prevent the UNN from reaching an abandoned laboratory there. This incident almost turns the cold war between the two planets into a fully armed conflict.
  • In Warframe, Deimos is consumed by the "Infestation" and replaced the old Orokin derelict tile set. It also features its own open world: the 'Cambion Drift'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Notes: The Satellites of Mars". The Observatory. 1 (6): 181–185. 20 September 1877. Bibcode:1877Obs.....1..181. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  2. ^ William Sheehan, The Planet Mars: A History of Observation and Discovery
  3. ^ Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature USGS Astrogeology Research Program, Categories
  4. ^ Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature USGS Astrogeology Research Program, Phobos
  5. ^ "Swift". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.
  6. ^ "Voltaire". Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature. USGS Astrogeology Research Program.