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Lava tubes in Hawaii could be a dress rehearsal for Lunar/Martian colonies

Thurston Lava Tube - Deposit Photos

When humans build the first bases and habitats on other worlds, they’ll confront dangers and challenges unlike any faced by the astronauts who went before them. To prepare for such challenges, scientists are descending deep underground into lava tubes in Hawaii that simulate conditions on rocky alien worlds.

There, mission crew members navigate uneven volcanic terrain and endure the physical constraints of performing research in a hostile environment. Wearing bulky suits like those required for extraterrestrial exploration, the scientists study the geology and organisms found in lava tunnels and caverns at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano.

This unique research station at Mauna Loa is run by the International Moon Base Alliance (IMBA), an association working toward developing the first international moon base, according to the IMBA website. It is part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS), which organizes analog missions for “astronaut” scientists, mimicking the experience of living on Mars and the moon. Director of the Hi-SEAS habitat, Michaela Musilova offered a glimpse of such missions in a March 19 presentation at the 52nd annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), held virtually this year due to COVID-19.

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