“Lava tubes (on Mars) could provide stable shields from cosmic and solar radiation and micrometeorite impacts which are often happening on the surfaces of planetary bodies.”
— Francesco Sauro, Ph.D., Speleologist and Head, ESA Caves and Pangaea Program, University of Bologna, Italy
December 18, 2020 Albuquerque, New Mexico – The American Geophysical Union (AGU) held its annual fall meeting digitally online in December this year. One of the presentations was by scientists at NASA/JPL-Caltech about “robot dogs” now being trained to explore caves on Mars.
Unlike Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, which have to stay on flat surfaces to move around, the robot dogs can move all over rough terrain and if they fall down, they get right back up because they are programed with “recovery algorithms that enable the robot dog to recover upright and keep moving after a variety of different falls.” See A. I. robot dog video at end of this Earthfiles report.
Another difference between Mars dogs and the current rovers on Mars is the dogs are so much lighter and faster. The A. I. dogs being trained for Mars exploration walk at 3 mph. In comparison, the other large, heavier rovers such as Perseverance can barely make 1 mile an hour.
NASA figured out long ago that the safest place for future human colonies would be deep underground away from the deadly UV radiation from the sun that constantly reaches the red planet’s surface easily because there is so little atmosphere on Mars. Over the past five years, there have been many headlines about why we should build “Astronaut Cities” on Mars in its huge underground lava tubes that are strong and naturally shielded from surface UV radiation.
Moon and Mars Exploration — Will They Be Dependent
Upon Subsurface Bases for Protection?
Researchers in NASA and ESA have discovered that Lava tubes beneath the surface of Mars and the moon could be, respectively, 100 and 1,000 times wider than lava tubes on Earth. The tubes can have a diameter of 10 to 30 meters (about 100 feet wide) and can be longer than 25 miles (40 kilometers)!
Matteo Massironi, Ph.D., Prof. of Structural and Planetary Geology in the Dept. of Geosciences at the University of Padua in Italy, who has specialized about lava tubes on the Earth’s moon says: “What is most important is that, despite the impressive dimension of the lunar tubes, they remain well within the roof stability threshold because of a lower gravitational attraction. This means that the majority of lava tubes underneath the lunar maria smooth plains are intact. The collapse chains we observed might have been caused by asteroids piercing the tube walls. Those collapse chains give us access to huge underground cavities.”
Francesco Sauro, Ph.D., Speleologist and Head of the European Space Agency’s Caves and Pangaea Program at the University of Bologna, Italy, concludes: “Lava tubes could provide stable shields from cosmic and solar radiation and micrometeorite impacts which are often happening on the surfaces of planetary bodies. Moreover, they have great potential for providing an environment in which temperatures do not vary from day- to night-time. Space agencies are now interested in planetary caves and lava tubes, as they represent a first step towards future explorations of the lunar surface (see also NASA’s project Artemis) and towards finding life (past or present) in Mars subsurface.”
Training Robot “Dogs” to Explore Martian Caves
According to the scientists at the AGU meeting, NASA’s JPL, MIT, Caltech, KAIST, LTU and several industries are collaborating to create “SubTerranean Autonomous Resilient Robots (CoSTAR).” Currently on Earth, NASA scientists are training the robot dogs to move through tunnels, climb stairs and ramps and to travel in rougher locations like the inside of tunnels and lava tubes. So far, no launch date has been set for sending one or more of the A. I. robot dogs to Mars.
But Elon Musk says he could launch one of his Starships to Mars in 2024 and has a goal by 2050 of having a million humans from Earth living in bases on Mars — probably underground in lava tubes. Those robot dogs might live up to the reputation that organic dogs have long had on Earth — “a man’s best friend.” The dog in this video is called “Spot.” It was created by robotics company Boston Dynamics to navigate various terrains at the fastest speeds for robotic dogs to date. Enjoy the demonstration!
09-30-2019 – Is This the Next Rocket to Moon and Mars?
06-25-2019 – A Mysterious White Spot in Martian Sky and Surprising Methane Spike On the Red Planet.
06-14-2019 – NASA Mars Orbiter Photo of “Star Trek” Logo-Shaped Dune On Red Planet.
11-01-2018 – Mars: Why It’s A Strange Cloud and Not Volcano Smoke.
08-08-2018 – Elon Musk’s SpaceX Holding Secret Mars Workshop Today
07-25-2018 – Underground Lake Reported Beneath Martian South Pole.
06-13-2018 – One of Largest Storms Ever Seen On Mars Threatens the Opportunity Rover.
06-07-2018 – NASA Confirms Organic Molecules On Mars — Will Life Evidence Be Next?
“Lava tubes on Mars and the Moon are so wide they can host planetary bases,” August 5, 2020, EurekaAlert/AAAS: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/udb-lto080520.php
“These lava tubes could be the safest place for explorers to live on Mars,” May 11, 2020, LiveScience: https://www.livescience.com/radiation-mars-safe-lava-tubes.html
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