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Mars Moon Space Science

When On the Moon and Mars, Move Underground 294

astroengine writes "Recent observations of the lunar and martian surface are turning up multiple discoveries of 'skylights' — collapsed roofs of hollow rilles or lava tubes. These holes into ready-made underground bunkers could provide ideal shelter for future manned bases on the two worlds. Firstly, they would provide shelter from the barrage of micrometeorites, solar x-rays and deep space cosmic rays. Secondly, they'd help protect our burgeoning colonists from the extreme swings in surface temperature (on the moon, temperatures vary by 500 degrees F, but inside these lava tubes, the environment remains at a fairly constant -35 degrees). Thirdly, the sci-fi notion of underground space cities could become a reality."
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When On the Moon and Mars, Move Underground

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  • by cats-paw ( 34890 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:32PM (#32952390) Homepage

    it's not obvious to me how you can have a habitat in space without being underground.

    I guess you could just build thick-walled structures of some sort, but going underground seems like it's probably slightly easier.

  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:34PM (#32952422) Journal

    It's the traveling to Mars that makes me wonder how we're going to keep people shielded from radiation en route. I've seen the proposals and they look doable, but they'll significantly add to the complexity of the mission.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:45PM (#32952584)
    By all means, let us keep all our eggs in one basket and just wait patiently for some extinction event. That worked out well for the other 99% of life on earth over geologic time.
  • by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:52PM (#32952698) Homepage

    While there are benefits to living underground, I don't think that living underground is itself a benefit. If it were, then more people on Earth would be living underground already. [Insert joke about Slashdot readers and basements here.] So I'm a little hazy on why the summary passed that off as the third "benefit". (And no, living like a science fiction movie isn't a benefit either. Not all SciFi is Utopian.)

  • by fritish ( 1630461 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:52PM (#32952700) Homepage
    I thought whalers settled the moon?
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:53PM (#32952704) Homepage

    Thing is, for "some" (assuming random, among many scenarios possible) extinction event, it's still most likely much more efficient to live underground, on Earth; saving orders of magnitude more people in the process, on comparable resources. At least when talking about foreseeable future (talking beyond that is a bit pointless anyway)

  • i don't get it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by underqualified ( 1318035 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:02PM (#32952850)
    we talk about colonizing and/or terraforming other planets when we can't even stop the ongoing negative changes happening to our own planet.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:06PM (#32952890)
    Creating an independent extraterrestrial colony is a mammoth task, but it would be resilient to all possible extinction events below a level affecting more than one planet of the solar system. Any single planet solution is ultimately vulnerable to anything up to and including planetary events. When the entire species is at stake, cost-benefit analysis needs to be a bit broader in scope to match.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:09PM (#32952922)

    Forcing everyone into the hot tub during a solar flare is actually not as impractical as some might think.

    There was a situation like that depicted on Defying Gravity [], episode 8, "Love, Honor, Obey" where during a solar flare the crew took refuge in a room surrounded by the water tanks and polyurethane insulation.

  • Re:i don't get it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hypergreatthing ( 254983 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:15PM (#32953002)

    Where else can we practice living in a location that is devoid of and incapable of sustaining life? The moon of course! better start practicing now.

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:18PM (#32953044)
    Excavation is expensive.

    No, scratch that, excavation is fucking expensive.

    Go look up the costs of major transportation tunnel projects. Billions. Imagine the cost of putting habitable structures of any size down there... especially when you can just build up with no excavation cost. (The excavation cost is on top of the cost of all the structure itself. Even after you get all the dirt and rock out, you still need walls and support structure, just like any other building, not to mention all the finishings.)
  • Re:i don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:19PM (#32953064) Homepage

    You're right, screw the Configuration Manager and his fancy Test Environment...

    Commit all changes to the Production Planet now.

  • Re:Tubes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tekfactory ( 937086 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:27PM (#32953144) Homepage

    Yeah, but seeing as you might want to park the Lunar rover, get out of you spacesuit, sleep, and maybe take a shower after a long day in the helium 3 mines. You might want to subdivide this big tube, pressurize it, wire it for internet, heating and cooling. Somewhere along the line you'll probably reinforce that structure, and when you do maybe you'll think about holding the roof up.

    Also don't build in one of those low rent neighborhoods, find something classy by a big crater.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:33PM (#32953236) Homepage

    > Similarly I was under the impression that it wasn't necessarily attenuation
    > from atmospheric mass that provided cosmic radiation shielding, but rather
    > the magnetosphere...

    The atmosphere stops the cosmic rays, which are far too energetic to be bothered by the magnetic field. The latter stops the solar wind which would otherwise erode the atmosphere, though it would stop them quite readily while it lasted.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:09PM (#32953578) Journal

    ... and once it becomes practical on a scale that would support enough people to get out there, eventually some jackass would control it who will kill you if you don't do what he/she likes. Doesn't matter how large the space we can reach is, if you get there someone with more resources is going to want to control you.

  • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:18PM (#32953706)

    And no, living like a science fiction movie isn't a benefit either. Not all SciFi is Utopian.

    No, it isn't. Yet many people here imagine how unrelentingly cool and exciting their lives would be, if only they were living in The Future. Well, we are living in the future, from the reference point of a century ago, but that doesn't protect us from being depressed and miserable.

    Guess what: The girls on the voyage to Proxima Centauri in 2300 aren't going to like you any more than the ones here and now, and you'll be hating them just as much for it. The stuff you'll do there every day will seem just as routine and mundane as your current boring life, and probably even more so. Everybody's favorite fantasy - the thing they'll yearn for every day of their lives - will be the legends they hear of life on our lush, gentle Earth, just as we're living it today.

    So, let's just realize that we're already on a more utopian planet than we're ever going to find in the nearby galaxy, and spend our efforts on preserving it for our descendants...

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by downhole ( 831621 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:37PM (#32953934) Homepage Journal

    An interesting point, but I have a feeling that, at least for the foreseeable future, any space colonies will be far too dependent on expensive high technology gear to have the kind of political independence you're thinking of. Any person or group of people with enough money to even get into Earth orbit without drawing a Government paycheck probably also has enough money to buy lots of practical independence in plenty of places on Earth.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:53PM (#32954192)

    You make it sound like any organization advanced enough to set up a permanent colony on another planet will not make absolutely sure they "own" everything about it, right down to your own civil rights - what's left of them. Every colonist will be tagged and monitored since it would be fatal to have even one go "rogue" and damage the life support.

    And if you think "There's no way someone will risk killing themselves as well by destroying the life support!!" ... well... wake up.

  • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:54PM (#32954218)
    Beware the argument from natural selection, it is not inherently superior. Natural selection produces things that work well enough, not things that work best. Natural selection produces life forms that can't feed themselves, such as the adult gypsy moth, others that die immediately after reproduction, such as the salmon, and lifeforms that die simply because their "design" sucks compared to others (honey bees' vs. hornets' stingers). Reproduction is the primary focus of natural selection, which is why some species are semelparitous.

    As humans, we are capable of seeing beyond the 'good enough' mechanisms of natural selection. So yes, maybe you 'still are' that way, but I prefer to look ahead, and I don't think I'm the only one either. One of the causes of our recent economic problems has been the 'fiscal quarter' mentality, whereby only things that are expected in the next three months are important, and things years away are brushed aside. When 'years away' finally arrives, there is no longer enough time to do anything, the probability cone has narrowed and the potential actors are trapped in the disaster scenario they ignored until it was too late. Now I'm not big on the eco-cult, but the fundamental ideas of sustainable development are sound, and based on long term planning, not short term.
  • Progress (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:05PM (#32956344)
    After all our advances in technology and thousands of years of hard work towards our dreams, we finally cross the gulfs of space to settle upon our new homes; and end up back where we started, living in caves.
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:14PM (#32956478)

    I don't understand people's vitriol against the various science liberties employed, like instant communication over distance or the artificial gravity, as many (most?) other popular Sci-Fi shows do the same (Star Trek, Firefly, Stargate, etc... - Don't get me started in SG-U.)

    I disagree.

    If a show/movie is depicting technology close to our own, then it should be consistent in that portrayal, and not show technology that is hundreds of years away or more.

    What would you think of a TV show set 5 years in the future, but which shows cops carrying portable laser guns, while everything else is exactly the same? It'd be stupid, and everyone would say so. Several leaps in technology would be required to have handheld laser guns, the biggest of which would probably be batteries capable of storing far more energy than today's. If that did happen, many other things would change because of it; electric cars would become popular very very quickly, for instance.

    Or how about a show set 10 years in the future, where everything's mostly the same, people still drive cars, but instead of taking planes to faraway locations, they use teleporters? Again, stupid.

    It's the same deal with artificial gravity and FTL communications. The only difference is that they aren't quite as obvious to science-ignorant audiences as ray guns and teleporters. Artificial gravity and FTL communications might indeed be possible (we'll never know until we achieve them, as you can't prove a negative), but if technology evolves to the point where these technologies (particularly artificial gravity) are possible, then we'll also have much better propulsion technology, and many other things would be different.

    These things work in Star Trek and Stargate because 1) in Star Trek, they're portraying a society far more advanced than ours, not only in time but in technology (partly because of contact with technologically-superior races like the Vulcans), so they have a lot of leeway in making up possible new technologies, and 2) in Stargate, even though it's set in present-day, it posits contact with races with much older civilizations and FAR more advanced than ours (especially the Asgard) with technologies we can currently only dream of, so again they have lots of leeway in making up stuff that's well beyond our current understanding of physics. Notice than in both these series, FTL propulsion is commonplace. Anyone advanced enough to have FTL propulsion will probably also have figured out artificial gravity along the way. Firefly is slightly less defensible because they don't have FTL propulsion, but they are hundreds (maybe thousands) of years in the future and have apparently figured out how to travel to another star system, as well as terraform many planets and moons, both things that are well beyond our technology, and their propulsion, while sub-FTL, is still far more advanced than our primitive chemical rockets.

    If you want to see near-term space exploration shown realistically, rent a copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Made way back in the late 60s, they got just about everything right: NO artificial gravity except by rotation, long communications delays, etc. The only things they got wrong were 1) the timeframe was way too optimistic (it's 9 years past 2001 and we're still nowhere near long-term manned missions, large rotating space stations, or moon bases; we slacked off starting in the 70s and we're getting lazier), and 2) the intelligence of the HAL9000 computer.

    If they could depict all these things correctly in a movie made back in the 60s, before inexpensive CGI existed, there's simply no excuse for any movie or TV show to screw up future technology now.

  • overthinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @05:33PM (#32956710) Homepage Journal

    Some tubes may be filled with frozen lava

    Otherwise known as rock

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @07:01PM (#32957852)

    All my favorite shows: Farscape, Firefly, Dead Like Me and Defying Gravity have "problems" with respect to the real world and real-world science

    What "problems" does Dead Like Me have? It's a show about grim reapers, something not even covered by science, but by religion, myth, and fantasy. It doesn't even remotely qualify as sci-fi. You might as well complain about physics problems in "Ghost".

    I've both read and seen "2001: A Space Odyssey" and Arthur C. Clarke is a SciFi God, but people thought he was "out there" in the 60's.

    How so? Obviously, the whole Monolith and Starchild thing was "out there", but the rest of it was very accurate, and probably would have been pretty close to reality if humans had kept up the momentum of technological development they had in the Space Race of the 50s and 60s. Again, the only problems I saw (other than the weird alien stuff on Jupiter at the end, and the Monolith) were 1) the optimistic timeframe (should have been called "2051" or "2101" instead, or maybe even "3001" the way things are going now), and 2) HAL was too advanced, we now know that our earlier predictions of AI were extremely optimistic. I could also add in that the scenes on the Moon didn't properly show the low-g environment, but obviously that's technically very difficult to do in a movie with 60s technology.

    People in the 60s probably thought he was "out there" because his movie was actually realistic, unlike typical sci-fi of the time.

    Personally, I can't stand the "communication stones" on SG-U (FTL comms perhaps, FTL consciousness swapping, no - especially given the apparent power required to gate that far) because I see it as an internal inconsistency.

    I've never seen SG-U (hasn't the Stargate thing jumped the shark several times now?), but it's so far out there that it's kinda passed from sci-fi to fantasy. But yes, internal consistency is still important in my opinion, and should be avoided whenever possible. It's even more important, and obvious, if you're depicting something in the very near-term future, rather than something showing godlike aliens (or worse, aliens who really are gods, like the Ori, who might not be quite omnipotent, but are close enough for all intents and purposes).

    The transporters on Star Trek were "invented" because using a shuttle was too time consuming story/production wise.

    The transporters did seem to be a little too advanced given some of the other technologies, but again, we're talking about a story of a civilization with FTL drive, "subspace" FTL communications, energy weapons, etc. Not something that's supposed to be happening a decade or two in the future.

    People bitched about horses and pistols on Firefly - which is set in 2517 according to Wikipedia - but I think they make sense even in that advanced world.

    The reasoning there was that Firefly's main characters lived on the fringes of society. They did show in the series that energy weapons existed, they just weren't owned by the poor people that lived on the outer worlds. Notice that the guns that they did use used caseless ammunition, unlike modern weapons. Horses again were because the people were poor. Levitating vehicles were shown (like in the Serenity movie), but not everyone had access to them. Firefly was actually a little different in this respect, because most sci-fi tends to assume that everyone in a given society will have equal access to the latest technology of that society (or it just ignores the lower classes altogether).

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous