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Mars Space Science

Caves on Mars? 99

RockDoctor writes "The BBC is reporting that the photo-surveying of Mars has revealed seven suspected cave entrances in the Arsia Mons volcanic area. This has been hinted at before — long sinuous channels in the same region have been interpreted as collapsed 'lava tube' caves — but the scale of the suggested entrances (sheer drops of 80 to 130m from the surrounding surface) makes my troglodytic hands twitch for my abseiling gear."
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Caves on Mars?

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  • Bin Laden? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:13AM (#18385555)
    Maybe THATS where he's been hiding!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:13AM (#18385561)
    Zapp: Behold...the Great Stone Face of Mars. The only known entrance to the Martian reservation.
    Leela: What about the Great Stone Ass of Mars?
    Zapp: Well, yeah, but it's way over the other side of the planet.
  • news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wileyAU ( 889251 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:20AM (#18385599) Homepage
    Is this really news? To be completely honest, it had never occurred to me that there wouldn't be caves on Mars.
    • Re:news? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:31AM (#18385671) Homepage
      It depends on the caves really. Fracture caves or lava tubes would certainly be expected because they're formed by volcanic and tectonic movements. If Mars didn't have that then something very odd would be going on. Solutional cave formations are less of a certainty though. These are the sorts of caves formed by water absorbing CO2 during rainfall, turning to carbonic acid, and dissolving certain sorts of rock. For them to exist you need both water and CO2 obviously, and specific mineral deposits to desolve. Their existence could tell us more about the chemical makeup of the martian surface.

      Plus, caves would be a likely place for microbes to continue to thrive. Caves on Earth of full of life.
      • Ooooooh!

        Giant Martian Cave Spiders....

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Caves can form in rocks other then limestone, such as gypsum - CaSO4.6H2O. In this case water simply dissolves the gypsum, which is slightly soluble in water irrespective of CO2 content. Gypsum is common evaporite mineral on Mars and can form pure deposits e.g. Pollack Crater has gypsum on its floor, it looks like Karst to me.
        • But again, water is still a requirement... I think THAT'S what's most significant (at least to me) about this revelation.
      • Actually, no tectonic movements. That's how Olympus got so big.
    • Re:news? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rmadmin ( 532701 ) <rmalek@homecode . o rg> on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:32AM (#18385681) Homepage
      To some of us, it is news. To be completely honest, it had never occurred to me that there would be caves on Mars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, it's no big deal... I've been there and there not all that great... I only saw a couple of paintings and they that aren't all that good...
    • Re:news? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @11:20AM (#18385965)
      although water formed caves would be exciting from a geological standpoint, i like the lava tubes theory.
      a lava tube would have the possibility of being sealed and an atificial atmosphere created for habitation.
      It's be safer than an inflatable structure on the surface.
      • In Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant Mars trilogy, a key settlement is inside a lava tube cavern complex.
      • Re:news? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @05:23PM (#18389347)
        a lava tube would have the possibility of being sealed and an atificial atmosphere created for habitation.

        Given that lava tubes appear to be prime habitat for any potential life on Mars, pumping one full of toxic oxygen raises a few ethical issues.
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          Ahhh... the Red Mars/Green Mars debate by Kim Robinson.

          And part of the same philosophy that has suggested that all of Mars ought to be preserved as some ecological nature park like Antarctica is at the moment... only scientist need to apply for a visit and nobody can settle there permanently.

          While I can understand this point of view, it is hardly the only opinion here and there are very legitimate reason to want to use lava tubes like this. Still, that there are ethical issues to raise about this is someth
    • I agree. The pace at which NASA and the other space agencies release this information makes me feel like I'm being spoon fed. They've also just announced that they found all of this frozen water. Give me a break. They've known this for a long time. I'm totally convinced that they already know there is biological life on Mars. There are plenty of MGS pictures of the south pole that look like forests growing in the middle of ice covered fields. I wish they would just get on with it already. We can han
  • by Anonymous Coward
    troglodytic hands in a box in storage.

    If their so smart they can find their own way out.
  • Filled with green martians in flying saucers bent on invading Earth.
  • yes, but (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does Mars have a Bat Cave?
  • Now that we know where they are I feel foolish for not seeing it sooner.

  • I suggest you mount rocket boosters then ... Mars has a lower gravity; but no atmosphere, so No planes, no choppers, ... only rockets will keep you up.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by polar red ( 215081 )
      Sorry ... I thought poster meant paragliding ... Go ahead with abseiling ... it'll be easier than on earth.
    • Mars has a decent atmosphere. Nothing compared to Venus or Earth, but many surveyor mission ideas dealt with light weight, flying craft to do reconnaissance. Other ideas include balloon craft to circle the surface and image, which would also require atmosphere.
      • by rHBa ( 976986 )
        Didn't I hear somewhere that Mars has very high speed winds?

        If that is the case then, despite the thin atmosphere, paragliding might be possible. It looks like there might be some nice terrain for soaring []. Obviously you'd need some pretty solid gear to withstand all the sand (ferrous dust) flying about, not to mention a space suit.
        • no, the atmosphere is too thin for paragliding to work. you'd have a minimum air speed of something stupidly high
      • by Eideewt ( 603267 )
        IIRC, the atmosphere is so thin that by the time you were going fast enough to get off the ground you wouldn't be able to actually maneuver.
        • by Teancum ( 67324 )
          It isn't that thin. It is on the order of manuvering in the stratosphere, and due to the much lower gravity on Mars the atmosphere doesn't thin out as you gain altitude to the degree that it does on the Earth. At some of the lower altitudes on Mars (like at the bottom of Hellas Basin or Valles Marineris), all you would need to survive there as a human is good winter clothing (like being in Antarctica) and an oxygen mask. The atmospheric pressure there is similar to being at the top of Mt. Everest... and
    • Mars has a lower gravity; but no atmosphere, so No planes, no choppers, ... only rockets will keep you up.

      Mars does indeed have an atmosphere, albiet a thin one. So planes designed for Mars can actually fly: []
  • Who here knew rock-climbers were nerds?
    • >Who here knew rock-climbers were nerds?

      We are up there wiht cyclists as gadget freaks, that's for sure.
  • ... the next Geico auto insurance ad.

    Mars Rover II -- so easy, even a caveman can do it.
  • by cybrpnk2 ( 579066 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @10:49AM (#18385791) Homepage
    OF COURSE there's caves on the Red Planet. Doesn't anybody read Chapter 8 of The Warlord of Mars [] anymore?.
    • I love how they page says "This page is an experiment; if I am succesful, it should take advantage of Netscape 2.0's advanced features without breaking other browsers."
    • Then, turning about the corner of a wall-like outcropping of granite, we came upon a smooth area of two or three acres before the base of the towering pile of ice and rock that had baffled us for days, and before us beheld the dark and cavernous mouth of a cave. From this repelling portal the horrid stench was emanating, and as Thuvan Dihn espied the place he halted with an exclamation of profound astonishment. "By all my ancestors!" he ejaculated. "That I should have lived to witness the reality of the f
  • by simonbp ( 412489 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @11:13AM (#18385919) Homepage
    Here's the actual article's URL; the also had some supporting papers at LPSC that show up at ADS... bcode=2007LPI....38.1371C&db_key=AST&data_type=HTM L&format=&high=44e3b245f913347 []

    Simon ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 )
      Thank you. I wondered why an article on "caves" would not have anything resembling a graphic, especially since they were discovered by photographic mapping. But looking at the article explains it. They look like nondescript bubbles and the theory that they represent a cave like structure comes from the thermal spectrum of the objects. Not much to see here...

      And why are these "caves" all named after women? No, let's not go there....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 17, 2007 @11:17AM (#18385945)
    The authors say that the possible discovery of caves on the Red Planet is significant.

    The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface.

    Like maybe Earthlings?
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface.

      Micrometeor a threat? "Look Squiqq, I evolved a flegellum, wiggle wiggle." Fffmmp! "Shit, now I'll have to start over."

      Seriously, though, caves may be the only practical way for astronauts to be protected from radiation. Astronauts only stayed on the moon for a few days, but if one is on a naked planet for a mon
    • by smchris ( 464899 )
      Yeah, that's been speculated for a while. But I say, "'Primitive', hell!" How many other people are dying for a good "Aliens-type" caves of Mars movie using current science as the backdrop?
  • Didn't anybody see this movie. It predicted caves on Mars a long time ago. See here -- []
  • Does this mean that there are cave-martians?
    • by Walt Dismal ( 534799 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:17PM (#18386359)
      Ask Aunt Anthro

      Dear Aunt Anthro, are there cave-martians?

      Sincerely, Timmy in Ohio (age 8)

      Dear Timmy;

      I want to encourage your interest in science! Yes, there are cave-martians. They have huge fangs and many clawed tentacles. They drool stinky green ichor and crawl like nothing you've ever seen before. They are known for hiding in dark closets and under beds. Also, they have flying saucers and know where Ohio is.

    • Many years ago as a kid I read a science fiction novel about a mission to Mars. What was interesting was that the explorers wore compressors on their backs instead of air tanks. The plot revolved around one explorer getting lost and discovering an ancient martian city. He's captured and taken underground by the remaining martians, who incarcerate him by taking away his compressor. I do recall the chief martian's name as Spitz-Rlll or something like that. I'd love to find the name and author of this book, pr
  • From Life On Mars:

    Oh man, look at those cavemen go
    It's the freakiest show
    • From Life On Mars:

      "Y'know, back in Hyde, we'd wait till we actually had evidence against a Martian before we went stomping in and turning his cave upside down..."

      • by ettlz ( 639203 )
        Is that not from Life on Mars? As in, "Don't move, you're surrounded by three-armed, web-footed bastards?"
  • Alien base (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ms1234 ( 211056 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @12:20PM (#18386397)
    Well, the sectoids have to live somewhere don't they?
  • Caves can be dangerous [].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      Caves can be dangerous [link].

      I almost clicked, and then realized this topic may be a perfect setup phrase for a goatse trick. I don't volunteer to check it.
      • by o'reor ( 581921 )

        I don't volunteer to check it.
        I did it for you. It's a little reference to Star Wars' "The Empire Strikes Back", perfectly safe for work.
  • I dunno, but I bet there's one near Uranus....
  • And inside the cave is a crying alien.
  • Those are the exit vents for the Martian atmosphere generator.
  • could be a story about spots on Uranus.
    • by o'reor ( 581921 )
      Yup. Talking of cavern entrances in your Arsia gets pretty damn close to that kind of joke, though...
  • In a related story, researchers are trying to determine the significance of what appears to be the letters "A.S." scratched onto one of the cave walls.
  • I think NASA should send a bunch of "micro-rovers" to investigate dozens of curious sites. Rather than a few bigger expensive rovers, they should *survey* Mars, and then send in the big rovers when they narrowed it down. The microrovers could be the size of Sojourner or smaller (but not dependent on a lander). Smaller rovers may also make it practical to take more risk and land in valleys, mountainous areas etc. without the worry of all-or-nothing losses.
  • I suggest playing the classic computer game Caverns of Mars to find out! URL: computer_game)
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday March 17, 2007 @05:16PM (#18389277)
  • It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
  • Coming next: NASA reveals pictures of 3-meter tall, four-armed green Martians riding thoats out of the caves....

    Yeah, I know, it's White Martians down at the south pole....

          mark "

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351