Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Some scientists are pushing for a sample return mission to Mars in which the robot wouldn't simply scoop up soil from the surface (though they want to do that, too) but instead have a rover enter a cave or lava tube and collect samples there.  Since the surface of Mars is constantly exposed to radiation, they argue the best place to look for life-- past or present-- would be subsurface.  Protected areas like caves or lava tubes, where rock blocks incoming radiation, might also work.  Plus, they point out, such places could preserve a history of life on Mars, as they do on Earth.

Future life on Mars could also be served by such a mission, they point out.  Lava tubes could be excellent sites for the first human settlements on Mars, as they would provide both protection from radiation and a consistent, controlled environment.

Of course, if Martian life already exists in such places, that could complicate or delay any human missions to the Red Planet.

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