Giant caves on distant planets or their satellites can store traces of life

(ORDO NEWS) — Lava tubes are formations that are extremely attractive from the point of view of searching for possible traces of life on the surfaces of other planets. A new article published by Sid Perkins, a science journalist specializing in earth and planetary sciences, is devoted to the prospects for the study of lava tubes located on the surfaces of planets and satellites of the planets of the solar system.

Lava tubes form when the side and top walls of a lava flow flowing over a planet’s surface first thicken and then solidify and form a hard crust. Gradually, the thickness of the crust increases, while the pressure of the lava dries up, as a result of which a hollow, sometimes very long tube is formed. Evidence for the presence of lava tubes has been found on the surfaces of the Earth, Moon and Mars on numerous occasions.

Mars was warm and humid a few billion years ago, scientists say. However, over time, it lost its water and the bulk of the atmosphere, turning into a lifeless desert. But the simplest life forms could still survive deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet in lava tubes, Perkins notes.

To investigate lava tubes, it is too risky to involve astronauts, even the most courageous and prepared – the walls of such a tube can collapse at any moment. Therefore, scientists from NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are proposing a robot project called Moon Diver to study lunar lava tubes. This mission consists of a stationary vehicle and a rover capable of descending on a cable into the lava tube through the “observation windows” (pictured).

What would such a “rover-speleologist” look for inside the lava tube? “Layered cake” made of layers of various geological rocks will provide valuable information about the history of the evolution of the Moon (and with it the history of the Earth, from the “edge” of which, as it is believed today, the Moon originated) or Mars. In addition, a film of microorganisms that fluoresces at certain wavelengths can be found on the inner surfaces of lava tubes, Perkins notes in his work.


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