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I think I understood that a rogue science experiment run by an Earth-based faction got out of control on Phoebe, perhaps on purpose. In the television series:

the Mars Navy and a UN ship are racing towards Phoebe. For some reason Mars decides to blow up Phoebe.

Why? I thought Mars would want to capture it to prove that the UN was up to something bad there.

I guess it was a joint research station so Mars possibly was involved in the experiment?

I guess the only explanation is that Mars knew what was going on there and did not want it known and also did not want the UN to be able to find out why the station went silent. Wouldn't the martians assume that UN had everything it needed from there already? What do they think they are denying the UN by

blowing up Phoebe?

  • Mars did not destroy this UN ship. – mcgyver5 Feb 13 '17 at 20:30
  • Fair enough. I've misread it. – Valorum Feb 13 '17 at 20:31
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    You should put a brief form of the question (minus spoilers) in the title. – J Doe Feb 14 '17 at 18:27
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    @JDoe original question did have brief form of the question but it was edited to what you see. – mcgyver5 Feb 15 '17 at 9:17
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Keep in mind that we do not see a Martian point of view on this. As far as the story has progressed, there are 4 factions: Earth (the UN), Mars (MCR), Belters (mainly represented by the OPA but not exclusively), and the Roci.

Note: I am limiting myself to knowledge that Mars had at the time of destroying Phoebe. We are explaining their state of mind at the time when they decided to destroy it.

Since we can't know the reasoning behind Mars' actions, let's look at possible explanations and see which one is most likely.

There are some general opinions about the protomolecule, depending on the factions:

  • UN : They think it's a weapon developed by Mars. Even if it weren't, it's still considered a weapon that someone intends to use against Earth.
  • Belters : They do not consider the global implications. They are mostly interested in having the protomolecule as either a bargaining chip, to increase their political importance.
  • Roci : The protomolecule is a plague that needs to be eradicated.

We don't know Mars' position. They could think it's a weapon developed by Earth, or by the OPA, or by an unknown third party. They could think it was a weapon intended to be used against Earth, not Mars. They could consider it a biological hazard as opposed to a weapon.
All we know for sure is that they are aware of the protomolecule's existence. We assume they have connected Phoebe to the protomolecule, since it would be highly coincidental for them to travel to Phoebe at that time.

This leaves a few possibilities as to why they would destroy Phoebe from afar.

  • They think Earth is trying to retrieve their own research, intended to be used against Mars. This makes Mars' actions a defensive move. Maybe they only did so after they realized the UN had a ship closeby, maybe it was their plan to blow it up from the get go.
  • They think Earth is trying to retrieve someone else's research, but they don't want Earth to get their hands on it.
  • They only know that Earth is interested in Phoebe (for whatever reason) and blow it up to inconvenience Earth (tit for tat, they are in a longstanding feud after all).
  • Regardless of whether Earth is involved or not; they consider Phoebe to be ground zero (contaminated) and therefore burn it to the ground in order to destroy the source of the plague.
  • They are well aware of the protomolecule, and are destroying their own research in order to destroy evidence.

Although we cannot know their exact stance on the protomolecule; there is an understandable explanation for their actions based on the most likely stances that they could be taking at that point in time.

All of these boil down to the same thing: Mars doesn't want anyone to come into contact with whatever is on Phoebe.
Whether that's covering their own asses, or trying to save humanity from a plague; isn't yet known to the viewer at the time; since Mars' position is intentionally withheld from the viewer.

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I think I understood that a rogue science experiment run by an Earth-based faction got out of control on Phoebe, perhaps on purpose.

Nothing got out of control on Phoebe; that happened on Eros. Phoebe was where the protomolecule originated.

Why? I thought Mars would want to capture it to prove that the UN was up to something bad there.

The answer to your main question: Mars likely could not capture the Phoebe research base, because they were outgunned by the UN ship the Nathan Hale, as explained to Draper by Sutton afterwards. Although it's used as the reason the Martians didn't fire at the Nathan Hale itself, UN could easily have stopped Mars from taking the station too.

Mars would probably have captured Phoebe if they had the firepower to do so, but they were outgunned and chose to do something the UN didn't expect instead: Destroy the base. After what happened at Eros, that was probably a good plan B.

The rest of this question contains some spoilers.

I guess the only explanation is that Mars knew what was going on there and did not want it known

I guess it was a joint research station so Mars possibly was involved in the experiment?

That's an explanation, and I can see how the UN could leap to the same conclusion, leading to war (as if there weren't already enough powder-kegs lying around that could also result in war).

Luckily, the UN learns in the next episode that Mars was not involved – but neither was the UN. It was a strictly private endeavour by Protogen.

And:

Wouldn't the martians assume that UN had everything it needed from there already? What do they think they are denying the UN by blowing up Phoebe?

They don't know for sure, as they don't know about Thoth Station, but they assume they destroy the seat of protomolecule research and the research that enabled Eros to happen.

  • yes, now I remember the discussion aboard the Martian ship about being outgunned and the Marines wanted to go anyway. "After what happened at Eros"... did Mars or anyone else know what happened at Eros at this time? – mcgyver5 Feb 14 '17 at 17:50

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