The neighborhood is a wild card, and moving into it will be expensive. But subterranean caves are one of the best options for shelter when humans finally reach the Red Planet. These hollows that They are found in great numbers on Earth and the Moonare natural insulators against the harsh conditions of Mars.
in offer this month At the American Geological Society’s Connections 2022 meeting in Denver, researchers identified nine leading candidates for caves worth exploring in the future. All of these caves seem to extend at least some distance underground, and are close to accessible landing sites for a lightweight rover.
These structures will provide a respite from the challenging Martian environment, said Nicole Bardaplias, a geologist at the University of Arizona. “Everything on the surface is exposed to harsh radiation, possible Meteorite or micrometeorite bombardment There are also significant temperature fluctuations between day and night.”
To return to the most coveted real estate on Mars, Ms. Bardabelias and her colleagues consulted with Candidate Catalog for Global Mars Cave. This compendium, based on images collected by onboard instruments Mars Odyssey spacecraft and Mars reconnaissance vehicleIt stores more than 1,000 candidate caves and other strange-looking features on Mars. (Think of it as the first multiple Martian menu service.)
Just as any discerning home buyer filters search results on Zillow or StreetEasy, the researchers narrowed the index by imposing two criteria. First, they requested that the cave be about 60 miles from a suitable spacecraft landing site. Second, they stipulated the availability of high-resolution images.
Mrs. Bardabelias and her collaborators identified a suitable landing site as being below an altitude of about 3,300 feet. These relatively low places are favorable landing sites because they give spacecraft more time slow down as they travel through the thin atmosphere of MarsMrs. Bradablias said.
“Mars has enough atmosphere that you can’t rule it out, but not enough to give you a great deal of atmospheric braking,” she said, referring to using the planet’s atmosphere to slow an incoming spacecraft. “If you don’t have enough space between when you reach the top of the atmosphere and where you’re supposed to land, it’s going to be very difficult for you to do the entry, descent and landing properly.”
The team also requested that top shelf images be available for each candidate cave. So suitable brokers NASA Mars helicopter For Martian real estate photography, this honor belongs to HiRISE, or Experience the science of high-resolution imaging The camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Ms. Bardabelias is HiRISE’s Principal Process Engineer, able to discern features on Mars that are about 3 feet in diameter but have photographed less than 5 percent of the planet’s surface so far.
There were 139 visible caves that met the team’s criteria, and Ms. Bradablias and her collaborators manually examined the images of each. After ignoring features such as bridge-shaped rock formations that were clearly not caves, the team analyzed the remaining crater-like features. The researchers settled on those that appeared to extend some distance underground, yielding a sample of nine candidate caves.
Ms Bardabilias said these potential caves, the largest of which contains an opening that could swallow a football field, deserve a closer look. but none of The rovers currently operating on the surface of Mars Close enough to explore any of these caves, so this mission falls, for now, on spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet. Ms Bardabelias said follow-up images taken from HiRISE from different angles and in different lighting conditions will reveal new details about these caves. Could you Help the HiRISE team decide what to shoot next Vote for your favorite cave.
It is appropriate that we I look to the caves again for shelter As we prepare to explore new worlds, said Glenn Cushing, a space scientist with the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and founder of the Mars Global Cave Candidate Catalog, who is not involved in the research. “This takes us back to the dawn of humanity.”
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