Mars and the Moon have lava tubes big enough to host planetary bases

Scientists and visionaries around the world foresee a future where mankind colonizes the moon and Mars. One major question that has to be answered before colonization can happen is how to create structures that humans can live inside and be protected from the radiation and lack of habitable atmosphere in both locations. Researchers from the universities of Bologna and Padua have studied the subsurface cavities that lava created underground on Mars and the Moon. They have determined that they are wide enough that they could host planetary bases.The team also says that the lava tubes could shield humans from cosmic radiation. The study looked at similar subsurface cavities on Earth that were created by lava to estimate the size of the same structures on Mars and the Moon. Researchers say that the skylights of lava tubes and collapse chains where the galleries cracked could be windows for subsurface exploration.

By measuring the size and gathering the morphology of lunar and Martian collapse chains, which are collapsed lava tubes, using digital terrain models that researchers were able to obtain through stereoscopic satellite images and laser altimetry, the team can compare the data to similar structures on Earth. The data the team used from the Earth were surface and laser scans of the inside of lava tubes in Lanzarote and the Galapagos.

Researchers found that Martian and lunar tubes are respectively 100 to 1,000 times wider than those found on Earth, which typically have a diameter of 10 to 30 meters. The reason the lava tubes on the Moon and Mars would be wider are lower gravity and its effect on volcanism.

The researchers say that tubes as wide as those could be longer than 40 km making the moon "an extraordinary target" for subsurface exploration and potential settlement. The tubes are also believed to be well within the reduced ability threshold because of lower gravitational attraction meaning there should be intact tubes on both Mars and the Moon.