Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

When On the Moon and Mars, Move Underground

Comments Filter:
  • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:38PM (#32952494)

    Would it not be an option to send robotic construction workers to the site ahead of time to begin construction of the shelter? Or, send two separate ships, one that just has cargo on board? That way, the ship that carries the people would need to carry less, and therefor the weight that would be allocated to kit could be allocated to slightly thicker walls. But, in typical Slashdot fashion, I'm just putting forth something that seems reasonable, substituting what I believe to be common sense for the engineering degree that I don't have.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:53PM (#32952708)

    Use the same giant freighter network for heavy bulk material and humans (admittedly overlap for some of us)

    Ship the heavy non-living stuff via Hohmann transfer orbit or the incredibly slow ITN. Its incredibly heavy so at a low delta-V it'll take awhile.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohmann_transfer_orbit [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_Transport_Network [wikipedia.org]

    On the other hand, occasionally you have an extremely lightweight payload of human beings. Send them at very high acceleration on a much faster hyperbolic (far above escape velocity) transfer orbit.

    The other option is the radiation protective scale height of the atmosphere isn't as much as you think. Forcing everyone into the hot tub during a solar flare is actually not as impractical as some might think. You're going to need all that water anyway, so building concentric hollow sphere tanks is not all that unrealistic.

  • by smaddox ( 928261 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:54PM (#32952716)

    I'm more worried about how any human civilization would survive more than a year without constant resupplying from Earth. Biosphere2 was a complete disaster, and it showed us how much we have to learn before we can successfully colonize another planet.

  • Recommended reading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ozziegt ( 865751 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:17PM (#32953036)
    I would highly recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. It's great science fiction and he piles on the science. In his novels some colonists actually live in lava tubes on Mars. I never get tired of reading those 3 books.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:20PM (#32953072)

    I think living underground, at least initially, is a given. In the moon, I suspect it'll take more than a cave with bare, exposed rock, though. If they cave is fairly shallow, we are susceptible to the effects of geological quakes due to surface impacts. I think we would still need a shell of some kind, surrounding the living space, which itself would be contained with a thick layer of insulating substance capable of absorbing minor kinetic vibration.

    Personally, I'd like to see a project to hollow the moon out, turn it into a wee dyson sphere. With a good bit of rotational spin, we'd gain a hell of a lot of habitable surface area.

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

    by bmajik ( 96670 ) <matt@mattevans.org> on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:53PM (#32953418) Homepage Journal

    The best reason to try this on the moon is that there is nowhere on Earth where the people on the surface wouldn't presume to own what was underneath the surface.

    The best way to avoid wars and to keep people happy is to let folks who must "Agree to disagree" choose to not be neighbors.

    We're out of places for free people to live on Earth's land masses. Everything on Earth's surface is owned and controlled by somebody at this point -- somebody who has no problem killing you if you don't do what they like.

    Where is a free-minded man to live? Where is the next frontier? The sea-steading folks are working on a promising option, but that merely moves the goal posts out a bit farther, but doesn't solve the problem.

    Space-steading is the long term answer. Getting a functional permanant society on the moon is step 1. Anything that makes that easier is worth looking at.

  • Well, duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AdamWill ( 604569 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:55PM (#32953440) Homepage

    "Thirdly, the sci-fi notion of underground space cities could become a reality.""

    Well, duh. Shockingly enough, many 'sci-fi' writers are fairly smart people who know what they're talking about. Underground space cities aren't usually ideas authors just pulled out of their asses because they though it'd be cool. Mostly they show up because the authors sat down and thought 'hmm, well, if there was _really_ a settlement on a rock with no atmosphere and very little gravity and we wanted to deal with the problems of extreme temperature variations and exposure to radiation and so forth, I wonder what would be a good idea...oh, hey, underground cities!"

    It tends to bug me when stories like this get written from a viewpoint (often subconscious) of 'hey, those crazy science fiction writers thought about this fifty years ago, but now someone with letters behind their name wrote about it in a Serious Publication, that makes the thought Real!'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @01:59PM (#32953498)

    Part of the problem with biosphere II was that it did not have a very deep biodiversity pool.

    Specifically, it tried to use larger (easier to control) plant and animal species. IIRC, it did not include very many insect forms, bacterial, algal, or fungal forms.

    I also don't think they accounted for the action of inorganics (Minerals, plastics, metals, etc) on the air purity conditions. (Many minerals react with atmospheric gasses, plastics break down and release monomers and plastic resins, and metals are notorious for absorbing oxygen as part of their decay process.)

    In short, their experiment was engineering oriented, instead of environmentally oriented. (as in, the environment inside the biosphere was not properly defined, and failed in much the same way that many "un-cultivatable" plants fail to be cultivated; their environmental needs are not met/cannot be met by their living conditions.)

    I suspect that if they ditched the whole "Needs to look like a pretty, well manicured garden inside" design aesthetic, they could produce a functional biosphere. Toadstools, swamp ooze, irritating gnats, and all.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:10PM (#32953600)
    Sorry to offend. I haven't seen "Voyage to the Planets" (UK or US versions). The Wikipedia page describes a different motivation for their voyage than on Defying Gravity - the latter was more about inter-personal relationships (unfortunately described as Grey's Anatomy in space) and the alien objects on the various planets.

    I actually liked the show. 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.) In addition, the production quality (CG, music, etc) was very high for a weekly show. The half-mile long ship itself was designed with input from NASA and consideration of possible advancements and launch capabilities over the next 40 years.

    Before passing complete judgment on DG, I would recommend watching all 13 episodes, not just the 8 aired. Perhaps I'm biased toward some of the character relationships and interactions as they reminded me of things in my own relationships and things I felt when my wife died of a brain tumor in 2006. I know the last scene of the last episode, Kiss, though sappy, was like my last kiss with my wife, except she didn't wake up afterward. I heard her last breath, felt her last heartbeat and kissed her goodbye.

    There's more to good sci-fi than the science.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @02:52PM (#32954180) Journal
    Conditions on the moon would actually be pretty unenviable for heavy machinery. The low gravity would be a plus, allowing impressive feats of strength, and otherwise implausibly spindly construction(though remember that mass, and inertia, don't change. That one can be embarrassing). It's all downhill from there, though.

    The lunar surface experiences no weathering, only meteorite and micrometerorite impacts, so it consists largely of fused globs and shards of glassy materials, as sharp as they day they formed. Without an atmosphere, static cling is a serious issue. Without much water(or the temperature envelope in which to use it) you can't just hose that stuff off. It worms its way into every crevice, and just grinds away. If you generate heat, conduction and convection work substantially less well than you would expect, since there is no atmosphere. The rock still conducts heat away from the work area; but any air-cooled machinery isn't exactly going to work very well...

    I doubt that it is impossible; but it is a nasty pile of engineering challenges. Something like Mars, which is basically a desert that used to beat up and steal the lunch money of even the toughest earthly deserts might actually be much easier(despite being further away). They have actual weathering there, an atmosphere(albeit a rather thin one) for air-cooling, and a surface that isn't exclusively made of tiny shards of glass that just want to cling to you and grind away....

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