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Mars Space Science

Robots To Go Spelunking In Martian Caves? 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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Robots To Go Spelunking In Martian Caves?

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  • Communications (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @05:15PM (#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.)

  • by RenderSeven ( 938535 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @05:30PM (#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:Core Samples? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @05:43PM (#41142375) Journal

    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.

  • by wa1hco ( 37574 ) on Monday August 27, 2012 @06:45PM (#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.

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