TNB Night Owl – Lava Tube City

Artist's concept of an astronaut working on Mars. Image: NASA
Artist's concept of an astronaut working on Mars. Image: NASA

Have you ever wanted to get off this rock? Just go live someplace else? Alot of people would like to make that happen and are working on technology that could make building large-scale habitats on the Moon and Mars possible. Even if the idea of relocating off-planet doesn’t appeal to you, it does appeal to many and if they go that leaves more room for you and me. Right? Okay, so it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but there’s more momentum than ever before in the right direction. We can still dream, can’t we? Let’s talk about one potential design for extraterrestrial living in comfort and safety.

Of course, there are dangers that must be mitigated in order to live on Mars or the Moon. Exposure to solar radiation, the chance of your colony getting clobbered by an errant meteoroid, and the lack of an Earth-like atmosphere are among the biggies. Most approaches to building off-world habitats assume humans would live on the surface of Mars or the Moon, which doesn’t offer any serious protection from solar radiation or meteors.

A better plan for the long-term would be to build human habitats inside sub-surface lava tubes. The Moon and Mars once had volcanic activity, similar to Earth. However, the lava tubes left behind by Martian and Lunar volcanoes are much bigger than on Earth. Orbiting spacecraft have provided planetary scientists with clues to the size of these underground spaces. Lava tubes on Mars are estimated to be between 40 and 400 meters (130 to 1,300 feet) in diameter, and vary in length (of course). The Moon’s lava tubes are thought to range between 500 and 900 meters (1,600 to 3,000 feet) in diameter.

These caverns are big enough to build towering skyscrapers inside. There would be living space (apartments, condos, flats) and work space (various businesses, offices, warehouses, factories). There could be green spaces, recreation zones, swimming pools, entertainment venues, concert halls, theaters, sports stadiums, and so on, to make Lava Tube City a desirable place to live and work.

Because the city would be built under the surface of Mars or the Moon, the dirt, dust, and rocks above would provide protection from solar radiation and meteoroids. If city planners wanted to invest in an extreme makeover remodel, the entire cavern could possibly be sealed off (pending development of appropriate engineering and technology) making it airtight such that an Earth-like atmosphere could be maintained within the lava tube. People could then go ‘outside’ their buildings without wearing pressure suits. (Remember, we’re dreaming here. Work with me.)

Earth boasts many impressive cities, none of which were built in a day, that previous generations would marvel at if they could see. Lava Tube Cities are, at this point, nothing more than a science fiction vision. However, the future is, and always has been, built on dreams.

Question of the Night: What dreams tickle your imagination?

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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.