Scientists looking for extraterrestrials admitted that they hoped to explore deep systems of Martian caves with the help of "space drones".
The first tests of drone technology – which would map underground caverns in search of extraterrestrial life – have already taken place in Icelandic lava tubes.
SETI – an institute aimed at tracking down extraterrestrial life – has successfully mapped a cave with the help of a NASA-backed drone equipped with Lidar technology.
This involves sending out light waves and tracking reflections to map places too difficult for humans to explore.
A team from SETI successfully mapped Lofthellir's lava tube ice cave in Iceland and said the mission could be replicated on Mars.
"We went to Iceland to study a lava tube containing large amounts of ice, to better understand the risks and potential opportunities presented by the many lava caves that we hope to explore on the Moon and Mars," he said. Pascal Lee, a SETI institute. planetary scientist.
"A promising way to explore them is to use drones," Lee added.
Scientists have long known that the Moon and Mars have cave openings on the surface.
These caves are interesting because they have been protected from difficult surface conditions, such as radiation, extreme temperature variations and meteorite bombardment.
Experts have already suggested that humans could someday occupy such caves for "long-term housing".
But more importantly, the caves could offer hope in the search for extraterrestrial life.
"Some caves, especially those reported near the North Pole of the Moon and on the flanks of giant volcanoes on Mars, could be cold enough to accumulate ice in water through a process called cold trapping," explained SETI.
"Such sheltered ice would represent an important narrative of the history of water on the Moon and Mars and, in the case of Mars, an exciting opportunity to look for signs of life as well."
According to Lee, the "Astrobotic drone" was able to map the Icelandic lava tube in 3D "in minutes".
This fast technology would be ideal for mapping Mars and the Moon.
"Small free flying spacecraft could be the ideal robotic platform for exploring lava tubes on the Earth, the Moon and Mars, for the simple reason that they would not have need to come into direct contact with the rough and potentially unstable surfaces that are inside. caves and lava tubes, "said Andrew Horchler, director of technologies and future missions at Astrobotic, the private space company that develops drone-based LiDAR mapping technology.
"Agile drones could quickly enter, map and exit cellars, returning from the dark to return data to Earth, return a sample to the surface, recharge and refuel."
However, space scientists will have to further modify drones to make them work outside the Earth.
The moon has virtually no atmosphere and the high altitude lava tubes on the massive volcanoes of Mars look very thin.
This means that Astrobotic space drones will have to be equipped with small propellers.
"It will take more development work to create a system ready for the Moon or Mars, but studying this frozen lava tube is an important first step for us," said Horchler.
And Lee added that astronauts could return to the underground tubes of Iceland to practice their own drone exploration missions, before reproducing them in space.