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Robots To Go Spelunking In Martian Caves?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the robby-the-caving-robot dept.

Mars 80

astroengine writes "Scientists are beginning to sketch out plans for NASA's new Mars rover Curiosity to climb Mount Sharp, but future robots may have a more direct way to access the planet's history books. Recent discoveries of 'skylights' and lava tubes on the surface of Mars, as well as the moon, are sparking the development of robotic probes that can descend into caves and explore tunnels. 'Geology works in layers, so how many layers can you see? Well, we know there are sinkholes on Mars. Those sinkholes expose potentially hundreds of feet of layers, so if you could lower something down and examine those layers and explore a tunnel underneath, or anything of that sort, the science that can be done with that is just phenomenal,' Jason Derleth, senior technology analyst with NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, told Discovery News."

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80 comments

Waiting to see if NASA will have money (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141907)

Pie in the sky, if budget slashers come into power in a couple months. Heck, they'll probably put Houston, Edwards and Cape Canaveral on the block - "Private industry can do it more better!"

Yuh.

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (3, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142069)

What are you talking about? The budget slashers are already in power, since the 70s

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142119)

What are you talking about? The budget slashers are already in power, since the 70s

The kind of cuts which may be coming will gut NASA. We've already seen some of the stark predictions.

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142347)

Well, it's up to us to find somebody that see to it that it's funded properly. Obviously that precludes the party regulars we elect now who are more concerned with protecting overseas business interests. So that leaves us with... what?

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (3, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142737)

Well, it's up to us to find somebody that see to it that it's funded properly. Obviously that precludes the party regulars we elect now who are more concerned with protecting overseas business interests. So that leaves us with... what?

Chinese Communisty Party Martian Masters?

well it is the RED planet!

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (4, Interesting)

RenderSeven (938535) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142187)

Partisanship aside, NASA's budget has been fairly flat [wikipedia.org] over the last few administrations. The left claims Romney would cut the budget, the right claims Obama would cut the budget, NASA thinks it will stay about the same. But if you know something more, pray tell share it with us.

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142539)

Why doesn't NASA print its own money, that's what Congress does when it wants some!

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142779)

Why doesn't NASA print its own money, that's what Congress does when it wants some!

Yeah, but when you print your own money they come, arrest you, throw you in jail -- because they don't like the competition.

Stupid thing is how little money NASA requires, but we can always find a few extra billion for yet another wacky military subcontractor to do something, rather than have the GIs do it.

Re:Waiting to see if NASA will have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41143309)

"Private industry can do it more better!"

It almost certainly can. NASA is a bloated, yet fragmented bureaucracy nowadays. That kind of environment isn't really conducive to high achievement on a budget.

Core Samples? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141947)

I saw this earlier and this thought immediately came to mind: Why send probes on dangerous cave missions when a machine that bores holes and analyses the sample could be built instead?

Re:Core Samples? (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142045)

I saw this earlier and this thought immediately came to mind: Why send probes on dangerous cave missions when a machine that bores holes and analyses the sample could be built instead?

That's effectively what we're in the middle of, but it still takes a lot of support to make these happen and one screw up on unit conversion and throw away one massive outlay and years of support. Sending a team of people there would certainly accelerate things, but who wants to give up a few years on Earth to go there and back? (Not that it wouldn't be an adventure!) It's a long time with your team and you'd better all be able to get along.

I like Curiosity and hope it learns a lot for us. Sometimes just driving around you can see a lot, as example, drive through the American Southwest, near Death Valley and consider the forces at play to build that landscape.

I do worry though that most of what we're going to find is sand, more layers of sand underneath and then some sandstone under that, followed by yet more sandstone, all pushed around by Mars' winds for millions of years.

Re:Core Samples? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142193)

I saw this earlier and this thought immediately came to mind: Why send probes on dangerous cave missions when a machine that bores holes and analyses the sample could be built instead?

Exactly.

Further, lava tubes, oddly enough, are lined with lava.
Not that informative.

A German designed drill is scheduled for the next lander in 2016 [washingtonpost.com] and drill 16 feet into the surface.
Nothing you can put in a cave will be able come close to that, and at best it might be able to drill a few inches into solid lava.

Re:Core Samples? (2)

careysub (976506) | about a year and a half ago | (#41145897)

I saw this earlier and this thought immediately came to mind: Why send probes on dangerous cave missions when a machine that bores holes and analyses the sample could be built instead?

Exactly.

Further, lava tubes, oddly enough, are lined with lava. Not that informative.

A German designed drill is scheduled for the next lander in 2016 [washingtonpost.com] and drill 16 feet into the surface. Nothing you can put in a cave will be able come close to that, and at best it might be able to drill a few inches into solid lava.

The hole named "Jeanne" here is more than 178 meters deep, no way a drill can come close to that. And many of the holes detected on Mars are not lava tubes but sink holes, i.e. created by some process of erosion. This is often involves water, and "follow the water" is exactly what Mars exploration wants to do. We are much more likely to find interesting water-related geology and chemistry hundreds of meters down a water-erosion tunnel than a few meters down under the surface.

Re:Core Samples? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142213)

I think it would be cool to send a rover with several model helicopers on board. The helicopters could be sent out to do recon missions and check out interesting things quickly and see if they are actually interesting enough to move the whole rover over there. They could descend into caves to scope things out, and maybe have a range of a KM or more. Easier said then done, I know. I just think it would be cool.

Re:Core Samples? (2)

quasius (1075773) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142323)

Are helicopters even reasonable in the thin Martian atmosphere? I assume it would still be possible, but the rotors would have to spin way faster and require much more energy.

Re:Core Samples? (0)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142427)

I don't know, but I thought that as well. You would have less gravity, but also a lot less air. That would mean less lift, but also less (propeller) drag, so you could spin the propellers faster with less energy. My guess is that you would have more motor losses becuase of the increased speed, but otherwise similar energy requirements....

Re:Core Samples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41143667)

Yeah, rotors with supersonic flow over much of the blade? Have fun with that...

Re:Core Samples? (2)

Lanteran (1883836) | about a year and a half ago | (#41144945)

Not really. Considering that the Martian atmosphere is something like 0.5% of the thickness of earth's, while the gravity is only lower by a little over 60%, it would take so much energy that it's really not possible with our current energy budget for spacecraft.

However, blimps or even zeppelins would be damn near ideal because of low gravity. Simpler and cheaper, too.

Re:Core Samples? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142441)

Unfortunately, helicopters(or even fixed-wing aircraft) are likely to be substantially harder on Mars.

The lower gravity is a nice bonus; but there is practically nothing to fly in. One 'standard' atmosphere on earth is a trifle over 100,000Pa. On Mars, just over 1200Pa is about the highest pressure known, with lows below 100Pa.

There are probably parts of Mars where a suitably designed atmospheric aircraft could operate, given that the gravity is a good deal lower and there is some atmosphere to work with; but it would be severely constrained compared to what you can do on earth.

Re:Core Samples? (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142907)

Wouldn't an inflatable type air craft be perfect for that scenario?

Re:Core Samples? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41143131)

Exactly the opposite. The denser the air the more mass you displace with your balloon.

Re:Core Samples? (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142375)

To my mind, what would be more interesting would be a mission to one of the deeper canyons in Valles Marineris, where atmospheric pressure will be considerably higher, and where, perhaps, some layers may in fact be exposed. Lava tubes on Mars are likely to be as informative as lava tubes on Earth; in other words not so much from learning geological history per se.

Re:Core Samples? (1)

BancBoy (578080) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142989)

Mod Up Informative, just noticed his/her username!

Re:Core Samples? (2)

Ford Prefect (8777) | about a year and a half ago | (#41145423)

Nah, he/she/it must know where all the Martians are hiding - in the lava tubes.

Ignore his/her/its attempts to mislead our might Earthly robotic investigators!

Re:Core Samples? (1)

djl4570 (801529) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142755)

An interesting idea that would require epic engineering. You can drill one length of shaft, then you'll need robots to do what a driller, roughnecks and worm do on a rig. The probe would require a substantial power supply to bore cores out of rock. Cooling and lubricating the drill bit without water would be an engineering challenge.

Re:Core Samples? (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41144459)

The Phoenix based drill they are talking about would go down 2 meters or so, which is about as far as the Apollo astronauts drilled too. It would take many missions (i.e., many decades) to develop a deep drilling capability, while probably one mission could put some sort of micro-rover in a cave, saving perhaps 20 years.

And of course, there is the entire biological aspect of cave systems, which I am posting on directly.

Re:Core Samples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41144481)

Because if you just bore into the surface who knows what you damage beneath the surface. But more to the point, if you send the probes actually into the caves you get to see what's in there. Who knows, maybe there's something completely unexpected in there like fossils. Also, it gives geologists a chance to actually see what's going on inside the cave before you start damaging things.

Apart from that, if they can get such a system working on Mars, it would be a real boon here on earth for times when they need to rescue somebody in a cave or mineshaft, but don't or can't risk other people going in before they understand the risks.

Re:Core Samples? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year and a half ago | (#41146531)

Because drilling dozens of miles into solid rock isn't exactly trivial. Doable, obviously, but it'd be very difficult to move a colossal drilling rig out to Mars, set it up, and have it drill consistently for months at a time. Remember that Curiosity, the biggest and most complicated lander ever sent to Mars, is slightly smaller than a Mini Cooper and can roll along at a top speed of centimetres per second.

Far easier to go down a convenient deep hole than arbitrarily make a new one. Less disruptive too- better to make observations of things in situ rather than drilling and pulverising and transporting.

Also, the caves are interesting in their own right. Making observations of how the caves formed is important science that you won't get by drilling a big bore hole (the opposite is true too). There might even be life in those caves, safe and sheltered from the surface (even if only cave slime); again, not something you might see by drilling a big hole.

Totally neat! Practically useless! (-1, Troll)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141957)

I'd love to see what's in Martian caves. That said, I'm realistic enough to know a waste of money when I see one. Look, even if we find the caves inhabited by gentle, intelligent, naked mole rats, it's not going to help us a whit. Or them, for that matter.

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

krept (697623) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141985)

Maybe it's just a Monday, and I'm tired, but imagine getting a live feed of these things touring the caves, while listening to some real atmospheric ambient music. I'd post what I'm listening to now, it'd be perfect but I don't want it to be misinterpreted as some kind of plug. Music is one of the few things rarely linked here.

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142477)

I'm looking for some nice music... If you feel like it, send me a few of your favourite artist/abum names to snowraver1[at]hotmail.com.

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41141997)

How is this wasting money if it doesn't leave american soil?

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142147)

If you mean, the money, that would be spiffy. When does that ever happen? Think all the electronics on latest Mars rover are USA made?

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142227)

I'd love to see what's in Martian caves. That said, I'm realistic enough to know a waste of money when I see one. Look, even if we find the caves inhabited by gentle, intelligent, naked mole rats, it's not going to help us a whit. Or them, for that matter.

Perhaps, but the kind of ingenius autonomous robot technology necessary will drive inovations here on earth. Sounds like a pretty fun competition, doesn't it? Build a robot which can navigate a cave and come back out again after accomplishing a few tasks on its own.

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142363)

Kuato Lives

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142839)

Perhaps, but the kind of ingenius autonomous robot technology necessary will drive inovations here on earth.
We seem to be innovating nicely without the Mars thing. Robot worms, little flying drones, driverless cars, Darpa's bigdog project. None of that required extraterrestrial motivators.

Re:Totally neat! Practically useless! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#41146051)

"I'd love to see what's in Martian caves."

Well, I can say one thing: rocks might be in layers, but you aren't going to see those layers in lava tubes, since the surface rock of those (usually thick) is deposited all at the same time.

Unless they can find a collapse somewhere, lava tubes are probably not worth more than a very brief look.

Communications (4, Interesting)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41141975)

Communications are going to be a major issue. Gets a lot harder to send a signal out when you have 20+ meters of solid rock overhead. And even if you go down a sink-hole with a direct line of sight upwards, you'd have to send the signal straight up. Only solution I can see would be a repeater at the surface, possibly with a physical cable going down. It's pretty challenging overall.

All that would be tremendously simplified if we just sent a manned mission. Then a person could just climb down with an actual rope. With reduced gravity, it'd be quite easy (they may even be able to simply jump down and back up again, depending on how deep the hole is.)

Re:Communications (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142109)

Communications are going to be a major issue. Gets a lot harder to send a signal out when you have 20+ meters of solid rock overhead. And even if you go down a sink-hole with a direct line of sight upwards, you'd have to send the signal straight up. Only solution I can see would be a repeater at the surface, possibly with a physical cable going down. It's pretty challenging overall.

All that would be tremendously simplified if we just sent a manned mission. Then a person could just climb down with an actual rope. With reduced gravity, it'd be quite easy (they may even be able to simply jump down and back up again, depending on how deep the hole is.)

Expect a robotic probe which is highly adaptable. Something which can examine the inside of a cave, make the right choices in moving around and then pop out to send back pictures/data for perhaps going back in to collect some samples or take a closer look at something interesting, i.e. crystal formations, which would certainly indicate something flowed around the surface for a very long time.

Re:Communications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41152069)

Have you seen the specs on what we just sent to Mars? Your average smart phone has more computational capabilities then the MSL (Mars Science Laboratory). I fully understand why its that way (error protection, radiation hardening, etc) and I'm sure it will accomplish a lot of useful science. But those specs, or any likely improvements on them in the next few decades don't allow for much in the way of highly adaptable, intelligent capabilities. Anything that NASA sends to Mars for the next 4 decades is going to be slow, small & relatively simple. MSL is the pinnacle of our current off world remote exploration abilities, and its little more than a glorified ATV with a nuclear power source that couldn't run a toaster, and a top speed that makes a turtle look like a speed demon. I'd wager on a near future "cave spelunking robot" being a camera/sensor package on a cable, lowered into the caves by a stripped down surface rover.

Re:Communications (1)

cptdondo (59460) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142179)

unreel a fiber optic cable to a surface station, much like a human climber with a rope. Not at all difficult.

Re:Communications (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142801)

unreel a fiber optic cable to a surface station, much like a human climber with a rope. Not at all difficult.

Watch out for that unpredictable snag.

Re:Communications (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#41143951)

Long spools of fiber/wire are old technology. Every heard of wire guided missiles? The trick is put the spool on the probe and leave lots of slack behind you.

Re:Communications (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142959)

Or, you just send up a balloon with the data attached. Even multiple balloons for continued research. Or just a few hundred feet of cable. It isn't meant to last forever.

Communications are the easiest part of the issue. Robots climbing down walls and roving about what is likely a very unstable surface is monstrously hard. Especially if there's monsters!

Re:Communications (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year and a half ago | (#41143707)

Balloons... in caves? What is that supposed to accomplish?

Re:Communications (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year and a half ago | (#41143975)

IIRC you have to use the balloon to go up the volcano and get something or other. Remember to tie it off or it will float away. You can use any junk paper to inflate it, but need the matches to light the paper after you put the paper into the tin thingy. Close the thingy to make the balloon go back down.

Re:Communications (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41144571)

Skylight == big hole in roof of cave. You need a cable or wireless going from where you are to above the surface.

I think a static line or a set of routers / repeaters would be better, as it will hard to get much good lift from a Martian balloon, and the winds tend to be pretty stiff.

Re:Communications (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142981)

you do realize that the communication issue is still there, right?

their plan:
send robot, robot says "i'm going in the cave, talk to you in a few hours".
a few minutes later, mission control on earth hears the message.
robot goes down the cave, takes pictures and samples, then comes back up.
robot says "ok guys, I'm back, here's the pictures, I'll have more on the samples in a few hours".

your plan:
send man, man says "i'm going in the cave, talk to you in a few hours".
a few minutes later, mission control on earth hears the message.
man goes down the cave, takes pictures and samples, says "wow", then comes back up.
man says "ok guys, I'm back, check my facebook page for the pictures, I'll have more on the samples in a few hours".

Re:Communications (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41144543)

Mesh communication systems running DTN and MANET can take care of this now. Picture dropping bread crumbs as you go along, except that each is a miniature router.

Re:Communications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41144131)

Repeaters

Re:Communications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41145445)

That's about what I was thinking. We have little idea what is under the martial soil, so we can't plan out specific technologies to ensure the signal makes it back to the surface short of the robot climbing back out and sending signals from the surface. There could be minerals that absorb signals (alike lead) making is highly unlikely to get a signal back to the surface. There could be minerals that reflect the signal so well that it gets jumbled up with other signals risking sending some signal back to the robot that may be the shutdown signal. Even with the idea of manned missions, we would still be risking sending humans into a cave system that is irradiated under the surface but sufficiently insulated that we can't measure it from the surface.

Re:Communications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41153683)

Long wave radio communication with a top-side repeater would probably provide sufficient data rates. It would certainly be a challenge, though. It's probably worth noting that sub-surface liquid water is what usually causes problems on Earth, and that shouldn't be an issue on mars.

Cotton Candy grows in my bung hole! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41142049)

Memorable quotes for
Looker (1981)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082677/quotes [imdb.com]

"John Reston: Television can control public opinion more effectively than armies of secret police, because television is entirely voluntary. The American government forces our children to attend school, but nobody forces them to watch T.V. Americans of all ages *submit* to television. Television is the American ideal. Persuasion without coercion. Nobody makes us watch. Who could have predicted that a *free* people would voluntarily spend one fifth of their lives sitting in front of a *box* with pictures? Fifteen years sitting in prison is punishment. But 15 years sitting in front of a television set is entertainment. And the average American now spends more than one and a half years of his life just watching television commercials. Fifty minutes, every day of his life, watching commercials. Now, that's power."

##

"The United States has it's own propaganda, but it's very effective because people don't realize that it's propaganda. And it's subtle, but it's actually a much stronger propaganda machine than the Nazis had but it's funded in a different way. With the Nazis it was funded by the government, but in the United States, it's funded by corporations and corporations they only want things to happen that will make people want to buy stuff. So whatever that is, then that is considered okay and good, but that doesn't necessarily mean it really serves people's thinking - it can stupify and make not very good things happen."
- Crispin Glover: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000417/bio [imdb.com]

##

"It's only logical to assume that conspiracies are everywhere, because that's what people do. They conspire. If you can't get the message, get the man." - Mel Gibson (from an interview)

##

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." - William Casey, CIA Director

##

George Carlin:

"The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they're an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They've long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They've got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They've got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that. That doesn't help them. That's against their interests. They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago.

You know what they want? Obedient workers people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And, now, they're coming for your Social Security. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all, sooner or later, because they own this fucking place. It's a big club, and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club.

This country is finished."

##

We now return you Americans to your media: Corporate, Government sponsored and controlled (rigged) elections..

Most of you are all so asleep it's time you woke up!

Why send the whole robot down? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142137)

Just have it lob a tethered camera with wings if needed to fly around into the hole, the same way a submersible can send a smaller unit into a ship wreck without risking the mothership.

Mars cavemen (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142253)

Why do I get this picture of a little green man with a fur loin cloth and a club?

Re:Mars cavemen (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year and a half ago | (#41142395)

Stop talking about your Congressman that way. Some of them have fur kilts and spikes in their clubs, I'll have you know.

I've done this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41143053)

I recently completed an aerospace engineering degree and presented a system to explore caves on Mars at JPL, using their criteria. They included things like exploring and taking core samples from walls and ceilings, which is very difficult to do. If they ever get around to that mission, I'll be curious to see how close their design comes up to what I came up with.

Living in space means living in caves (5, Interesting)

wa1hco (37574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41143197)

Very large caves...cavernous spaces. The radiation from Solar flares, Cosmic Rays, etc. means humans need a lot of shielding and that really only comes from a lot of mass between you and the vacuum. If we live on mars, moon or somewhere else, it will have to mean living underground. Earth has a magnetic field and an atmosphere that traps, deflects and degrades most high energy particles (==radiation) before they get to the ground. Other problems solved by caverns include: The moon and Mars change temperature 100C or more between day and night. Micrometeors that make a nice glow as trails at night on Earth act as a 30,000 kph BB gun on the moon. Living outside is very bad for your health.

I really want to see what a 100 meter wide, kilometer long cavern looks like from inside. The roof is 100 meters or more thick and has survived for billions of years. It should not be too hard to seal and pressurize it. The first images from a camera lowered into such a huge cavern, with the right lighting. will be stunning and will change the way we view living in space.

Finally an interesting post! (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year and a half ago | (#41143693)

I was thinking along the same lines, what a perfect habitat! You could always build observation towers that extended up beyond the caves to get your fix of looking out the window.

I only hope that in the next few decades we do see a manned mission, although I suspect the effort will be private rather than funded by a government.

Re:Living in space means living in caves (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about a year and a half ago | (#41145795)

mankind, came out of the caves...

invented agriculture, toolmaking, metalworking, writing, reason, science, machinery, engines, mastered the atom, aircraft, spaceflight...

so he can go live in a cave again

poetic

Re:Living in space means living in caves (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41145853)

There are a lot of idea floating around for safely living on the surface. For example, it could be as easy and low tech as collecting martian sand in bags and throwing enough of the sandbags onto the roof.

I don't want to downplay the importance of exploring those caves, but lets not exaggerate the difficulty of manned missions/settlements on mars. The surface is not impossible.

Re:Living in space means living in caves (1)

Phigrin (645909) | about a year and a half ago | (#41148195)

If we could just send a manned mission already. NASA has the budget and capability. Yes they would be there forever, but with some good caves this would be doable. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of someone living on a new planet. :)

I thought robots were supposed to be our slaves... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41144155)

... so how come they get to do the coolest stuff?

It's the biology... (1)

mbone (558574) | about a year and a half ago | (#41144523)

The real interest here is biological. Caves will protect whatever is inside from UV radiation and cosmic rays, and will also trap water (and may even be warm, due to geothermal heating). That makes them of high biological interest. The geology would just be an added bonus. (Note that the geology may not even be super compelling - the lava tube I have personally seen was just one unit of lava, with no layers or anything very revealing. I think that's pretty common for lava tubes, and who knows if there are any erosional caves on Mars.)

You are in a twisty maze of passageways, all alike (1)

xenobyte (446878) | about a year and a half ago | (#41146035)

Nothing like a good cave adventure... Remember to bring the lamp!

Moon vs. Mars (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about a year and a half ago | (#41155929)

Normally, I am opposed to doing the moon as a 'test-bed' for mars. They are totally different areas. Small atmosphere vs. next to none. Likewise, the moon has some of the wildest temp extremes going in the solar system. So, normally, the moon is NOT a good testbed. But caves are a different issue. Deep caves on the moon will have a much higher and more constant temperature due to the moderation of the ground. As such, it makes good sense to start this on the moon first. This will allow communication, temperature and even chemical analysis to be tested before sending it out.

Interestingly, this approach might even allow for multiple robots to go in a cave. It would be useful to have multiple walkers with different capabilities running around in one. It would also be nice to be able to seal one and see what happens.
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