It’s one thing to step onto a foreign world’s surface; it’s another matter entirely to set foot beneath its surface, trusting your safety to the structural integrity of a tunnel-like cave.
By Meghan Bartels | SPACE.com
But that’s precisely what humans will likely want to do if they ever intend to spend long periods of time on the moon or Mars. That’s because staying below the surface would protect them from damaging radiation, likely more effectively than any terrestrial technology could. So, scientists practiced earlier this month here on Earth, at Lava Beds National Monument in California, to make sure future explorers can see exactly what they’re getting into before they enter an extraterrestrial lava tube.
„It’s a ton of fun; they’re so different from one another,“ Kelsey Young, a geologist at NASA and principal investigator of the TubeX project to practice checking out terrestrial lava tubes to better prepare for exploration, told Space.com. Tubes can vary in how cluttered they are, their shape and size, what their entrances look like, and more. „There’s never a tube that you get in that’s exactly like one you’ve been in before,“ she said. [Astronauts Explore Caves in Mock Space Mission (Photos)]