Possible Mars Cave Exploration Mission Entices Scientists

The possibility of a Mars cave exploration mission is enticing scientists who want to see what the Red Planet’s subterranean formations have to offer.

NASA is currently mapping out how to send bits of rock and soil from Mars back to Earth, but some scientists believe the most intriguing samples are located in caves, reports Yahoo! News.

The space agency hopes to mount a sample return mission, which is widely viewed as the best way to look for signs of life on Earth’s neighbor. Signs like this are more likely to be found during a Mars cave exploration.

Astrobiologist and cave scientist Penny Boston, who works with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, stated:

“While I’m very much interested in a surface sample-return to get us over this hump of doing it, of course I immediately want to go on and start sampling more cryptic materials in lava-tube caves. I would love that.”

It wouldn’t be difficult to find a cave on Mars to explore, since subterranean formations on the planet are quite common. Space.com notes that orbiting spacecraft have spotted many lava tubes, which were created by volcanic activity on the Red Planet a long time ago. Boston stated:

“I could probably scrape up a few hundred samples on Mars, and I think that the numbers are only going to increase as the interest in these structures increases.”

Scientists like Boston believe that a Mars cave exploration mission would be a worthwhile adventure, because caverns like the lava tubes may hold a bounty of information about Martian history and evolution that we can’t see just by looking at the surface alone.

Such caverns could hold information about the planet’s past and current potential to host life. Many researchers say that the dry, cold, radiation-filled surface of Mars is not likely to host life now, but that organisms could potentially live in one of the planet’s subterranean structures.

Would you like to see a Mars cave exploration mission?