In order to establish a base on Mars, the settlers would have to survive in extremely harsh conditions with an attack of cosmic radiation.
To do so, they might end up hiding beneath the planet’s surface in caves called lava tubes.
Scientists have long suggested that hiding in lava tubes could be the key to building safe bases on the moon or Mars. But they knew very little about the tubes themselves.
And now, thanks to research published last month in Earth-Science Reviews, scientists at the European Space Agency and the University of Bologna believe and seem that these subsurface caves are likely large enough to fit and house Mars’ functional bases.
According to the research, the vast lava tubes beneath the surfaces of Mars and the Moon are much larger than they are on Earth, enough to host bases for safely visiting astronauts.
The researchers compared signs of a subterranean collapse on the surfaces of space worlds to the size of lava tubes known on Earth. Since the landslides on Mars were larger, they concluded that the volcanic tubes below its surface were also very large.
Living inside these tubes, below the surface, could theoretically provide some protection for astronauts who are expected to visit other parts of the solar system in the coming years.
The tubes on the Moon and Mars are believed to be 1,000 times larger than those on Earth, as they can actually be about 30 meters in diameter. The extra volume is explained, in large part, by the reduced gravitational pull of these worlds.
Despite their large size, researchers believe the lava tubes are surprisingly stable, meaning that settlers will not have to worry about collapsing around them.
As part of the research, scientists from the European Space Agency as well as the University of Bologna and Padua explored examples of such caves on Earth, where they can be found in Hawaii, the Canary Islands, Australia and Iceland.
They also measured the size of collapsed tubes on the moon and Mars, using images and other data taken from the visiting probes. Then they compared that data with information about collapsing chains on Earth’s surface, allowing them to understand the relationship between those tubes that collapsed and other tubes that remained stable.
And they found that conditions in other worlds would allow them to grow larger before falling.
“Such tubes can reach more than 40 kilometers in width, which makes the moon an exceptional target for exploration under the Earth’s surface and potential stability in the vast protected and stable environments of lava tubes,” said Ricardo Bozobon, the scientists involved in the paper from the University of Padua. The latter is so large that it can contain the entire city center of Padua.
And tubes like these, found in other worlds, could form a major part of plans to go and stay on the moon and Mars, as conditions would be more dangerous than on Earth.
“The lava tubes can provide stable shields from cosmic and solar radiation and the delicate effects of meteorites that often occur on planets’ surfaces,” said Francesco Sauro, a researcher at the European Space Agency, in a press release. “Moreover, they have great potential to provide an environment where temperatures do not differ from day to night,” he added.
Space agencies are now interested in planetary caves and lava tubes, as they represent a first step towards future explorations of the lunar surface and toward finding life (past or present) in the interior of Mars.
Source: The Independent