During the last decade, caves and subterranean features have been discovered on nearly every planetary surface as the spatial resolution of spacecraft instrumentation has markedly improved. Planetary scientists have identified more than 270 lunar and several hundred martian cave-like features. These features allow us to access and examine the subsurface without costly deep-drilling payloads. Moreover, caves provide potential habitats for life, including future human habitation on the Moon and Mars.
Cave-like features on planetary bodies formed from volcanic processes, tectonic processes, and/or karst dissolution. Together, these features represent significant void space in the subsurface. Pit crater chains, lateral cave entrances, and skylight entrances represent potential access to the deep subsurface, enabling us to address key questions about subsurface habitability and biosignature potential. These caves may also host significant water ice deposits for human consumption and potentially generate hydrogen fuel to return humans to Earth.
The 4th International Planetary Caves Conference plans to continue capitalizing on advances in the current state-of-the-art cave exploration and exchanging knowledge and ideas between scientists and engineers for future cave missions. Topics include:
Additionally, the conference will provide a forum to discuss ongoing mission proposals to space agencies and the longer-term objective of developing a strategy for research and robotic exploration of caves across the solar system.
All information on the event website: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/4thcaves2023/
For a presentation video see: https://youtu.be/gSJwKfwKrco