Caves of Mars Project

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THEMIS image of probable cave entrances on Arsia Mons. The pits have been informally named (A) Dena, (B) Chloe, (C) Wendy, (D) Annie, (E) Abby (left) and Nikki, and (F) Jeanne.

The Caves of Mars Project was an early 2000s program funded through Phase II[clarification needed] by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts[1][2] to assess the best place to situate the research and habitation modules that a human mission to Mars would require.[3] The final report was published in mid 2004.[3]


A HiRISE image of a lava tube skylight entrance on the Martian volcano Pavonis Mons.

Caves and other underground structures, including Martian lava tubes, canyon overhangs, and other Martian cavities would be potentially useful for manned missions, for they would provide considerable shielding from both the elements and intense solar radiation to which a Mars mission would expose astronauts. They might also offer access to minerals, gases, ices, and any subterranean life that the crew of such a mission would probably be searching for.[3]

The program also studied designs for inflatable modules and other such structures that would aid the astronauts to build a livable environment for humans and earth creatures.[3]

Summary of final report[edit]

Discussion of how best to seal caves to provide breathable atmosphere with air locks.[3]

Awaiting NIH approval for study of humans breathing argon.[3]


The project showed crickets and mice could breathe argon mixtures for extended periods without apparent problems.[3]

The project produced many educational materials.[3]

Demonstrated wireless communications within limestone cave system.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Braun; et al. (2009). Appendix E: List and Statistical Analysis of NIAC Grants. Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts. National Academies Press. ISBN 0-309-14051-X. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  2. ^ David, LeonardS (2005-02-22). "Digging and Sniffing for Life on Mars". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Boston, P.; Frederick, G.; Frederick, G.; Welch, S.; Werker, J.; Meyer, T.R.; Sprungman, B.; Hildreth-Werker, V.; Murphy, D.; Thompson, S.L. (2004), "System Feasibility Demonstrations of Caves and Subsurface Constructed for Mars Habitation and Scientific Exploration" (PDF), USRA Reports, NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, retrieved 2010-06-30 

External links[edit]