MARTIAN LAVATUBES AS HABITATS Ð REVISITED
One of the key elements for successful long-term human occupation of Mars, is a viable habitation scheme. Countless ideas have been proposed along these lines from converted landers to inflatable domes. The advantages of most schemes thus far are that they are location independent, to an extent. The lander lands and the habitation is set up. In other words, bring the habitat to Mars. But what if ready-made habitats were available? Select locations on the planet, which with minor modifications, could easily serve as a semi-permanent base of operations? These locations could well be lava tubes.
Lava tubes are caves formed by flows of highly fluid lava--a "river" of molten rock flowing from an eruption source, either volcano or fissure. Often as the flow progresses, the tops and sides solidify. If the flow source stops, the remaining lava may pour out, leaving a hollow "tube" of rock.
On the Earth, the author has personally visited lava tubes on the flanks of Mount St. Helens, in Washington state, the Big Island of Hawaii as well as tubes formed by fissure eruptions in Iceland. Many of the lava flows identified on the planet Mars feature the same characteristics as terrestrial flows, including lava tubes. The main difference is a matter of scale: The Martian features dramatically dwarf their Earth-based counterparts.
This paper, an updated version submitted several years ago as a poster paper for "Case For Mars '96," highlights extensive field work done by the Oregon L5 Society along this same line of thought. We will demonstrate how the much larger Martian versions could provide a quick, easy and inexpensive way to provide long-term human outposts on the Red Planet.