As NASA makes a big push to land humans on the lunar surface by 2024, the European Space Agency (ESA) wants to learn more about the lunar caves below.
ESA has published a call for proposals asking for creative ways to design a robotic mission to explore those caves that could be connected to old underground lava tubes that have dried up over the eons and disintegrated. Campaign is available on the ESA's Open Space Innovation Platform and closes on October 31st.
"The study and mapping of these tubes may provide new information about the geology of the moon, but they can also be an interesting option as long as it is a thermal shelter for future human visitors to the moon," says Franco Sauro, director of planetary astronauts ESA Pangea Geology in statement "They would protect astronauts from space radiation and micrometeorites and possibly provide access to ice water and other resources trapped underground."
The missions have several scientific goals related to them, ESA explained. Future researchers will not only have to access, navigate and map the caves, but they can Some possible ideas include establishing communication between the cave and the "outside world," ESA said, while others include tools that could take measurements of the cave's environment.
"The mission concepts can be based on a rover or distributed system of satellite, robotic or rover systems that work together," said in a statement, Loredana Besone, who leads the hunt for ideas as head of training in analog field research and ESA study. "Anyway, we're looking for systems to land on the lunar surface, identify and gain access to a cave, and contribute to the scientific study of the moon."
The statement does not say how (if at all) this does will refer to Sq NASA research plans to land humans on the surface of the moon in 2024, but NASA said it wants to land on the moon to establish a permanent human presence there. Moon caves are a possible option to protect astronauts from prolonged surface radiation , though so far our only knowledge of them comes from pits of pits spotted from orbit .