The study of caves on Earth with the help of flying drones may facilitate the colonization of Mars

According to one of the previously mentioned concepts, the first colonists of Mars may not have to build bases from scratch. For this is a better idea to take advantage of the fact that the already established local alien nature. And created it, as it turned out, a vast long cave, which were established so-called lava tubes. Their use as a permanent dwelling place would protect the first Martian settlers from extreme surface temperatures, radiation, and asteroids. However, before people can begin to create the underground Martian dwellings, it is necessary to conduct mapping of these Martian caves. How to do it?

The caves once sheltered our ancestors, to settle the Land. Now people are asked again to pass this way — again become cave dwellers, but on other planets. And on another technological level, of course.

Researchers from the Institute of search for extraterrestrial civilizations (SETI) in collaboration with the Institute astronomicheskikh technology (Institute and Astrobotic Technology) demonstrated one of the methods which in the future will be able to simplify future colonizers of Mars to the task of finding a suitable place for habitation. The team led by Pascal Lee from the Department of planetary research of the SETI Institute uses a system equipped with a compact LIDAR drones to create three-dimensional maps Lofthellir lava caves in Iceland. Experts were able not only to create a map of this remote and rugged caves, but also learned more about its geological history.

“Our field trials demonstrate the potential effectiveness of the new concept of “contactless and quick” study of the caves on the moon and Mars. Some of these natural underground formations may contain significant reserves of water ice that will simplify the task of colonization. Of course, the atmosphere of the moon and Mars is very rarefied to use drones equipped with conventional screw system. Therefore, most likely, will use small aircraft, equipped with a compact jet engines, or working on the basis of cold gas,” says Lee.

According to Lee, “non-contact and fast” method of study of the caves allows you to minimize risks and at the same time to improve the efficiency of this work in comparison with more traditional research methods of underground formations. It is much safer to send inside the cave flying machine, which will not directly (physically) interact with the environment of the cave, in contrast to the same land Rover.

“The caves are different. Using this approach, devices do not have to spend a lot of time in difficult conditions: low temperatures, absence of light as an energy source, and in fact, working without a system of communication with Earth due to the particular blocking signals. With all necessary work, the drone will be able to cope in just a few minutes, and then safely leave the cave,” explains Lee.

The prototype drone, which the team Whether used for mapping the Icelandic caves were developed by private space company Astrobotic. It is engaged in the development of mapping technologies on the basis of LIDAR systems that use three-dimensional visualization of space both optical and lidar (laser-pulse) technology that allows drones to move autonomously, not relying on the GPS.

“The device literally in real time creates a three-dimensional model of their environment, and then uses it for further advancement and study of caves,” adds Lee.

The experiment in Iceland was a success, drone coped with the task in just a few minutes, but development of the aircraft, which can be used in Martian terms, will require a lot of effort and work. It is the task of other scientific and engineering teams. Meanwhile, the SETI team and Astrobotic intends to continue improving its technology of three-dimensional scanning and mapping of underground caves on Earth.

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