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Still Waters

NASA considers cave diving on the moon

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Still Waters

Half a century after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps across the moon’s Mare Tranquillitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility, scientists want to send a robotic explorer to the same lunar region for a deeper dive.

An extreme-terrain rover concept called Moon Diver, to launch in the mid-2020s if approved by NASA, would descend into one of the enormous pits dotting the surface of the moon. The walls of the cave under consideration for the spelunking spacecraft are about 130 feet deep, followed by another 200 feet of freefall into a deep, dark, mysterious maw beneath the lunar surface.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/nasa-considers-rover-mission-go-cave-diving-moon-180971790/

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bison
Posted (edited)

They speak of a pit about 100 meters deep, but if this is anything like lava caves on Earth, the pit could be merely an opening into a much more extensive horizontal cave system. Given the much lower gravity on the Moon, lava caves may even assume larger sizes than they typically do on Earth.    

Edited by bison
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Piney
16 minutes ago, bison said:

They speak of a pit about 100 meters deep, but if this is anything like lava caves on Earth, the pit could be merely an opening into a much more extensive horizontal cave system. Given the much lower gravity on the Moon, lava caves may even assume larger sizes than they typically do on Earth.    

I was thinking the same thing. The lava tubes in Hawaii are pretty big. The moon must have some massive ones.

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bison

Kazumura Cave in Hawaii holds the record for the longest and deepest known lava tube in the world; nearly 41 miles long, and up to 3600 feet deep. If gravity is proportional to size, that could mean lengths, depths, and interior dimensions up to six times greater on the Moon.  

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Waspie_Dwarf
6 minutes ago, bison said:

 If gravity is proportional to size, that could mean lengths

Why would it be? What effect is gravity going to have on lava flow?

The only effect I can think of is that, with lower gravity, roof collapses of caves should be reduced, but I don't understand why a lower gravity environment would lead to larger caves in the first place.

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bison

Lava tubes form by channels of molten rock flowing beneath the already-hardened surface, and finally emptying out.  A tube of too great a size would collapse under its own weight as the supporting lava began to flow out. It would became merely a lava flow on the surface. With one sixth of Earth's gravity, it appears that much larger lava tubes could resist collapse on the Moon, than on the Earth.    

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Not A Rockstar

How would it send data back? Wouldn't the solid rock around it pose a blocker for the communications?

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bison

The article linked in the OP explains that the spelunking rover will trail a cable from its base unit for communications and power. They propose to include twice as much cable as needed to reach the bottom of the pit. That should allow about 100 meters of exploration in either direction, should there actually be a horizontal cave at the bottom of that pit. 

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Not A Rockstar

I still find that awfully providential. Hope they come up with a better plan/way to haul it back up if it gets stuck. I just have this imagery in my mind of it dropping down that chute and that being the end of that...

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