Since the founding of the National Speleological Society in 1941, cavers have branched out into ever-increasing fields of discovery and exploration. From deep oceans to Alpine peaks, NSS cavers have often taken the lead around the world to refine our understanding of these unique ecosystems. Following that spirit of discovery, a select group of cavers have now directed their focus to cave exploration beyond the confines of Earth.
Where will cave exploration go as humans achieve the technology to explore beyond our planet? What new science will need to be discovered to facilitate these expeditions? How can members of the National Speleological Society help these efforts?
Since the 1960s, researchers, examining low resolution imagery, have speculated about the presence of caves on the Moon and Mars. In 2007, researchers confirmed the first cave-like features on the Red Planet. To date, planetary scientists have identified more than 200 lunar and over 2,000 Martian cave-like features. The occurrence of caves (in either host rock or ice) on other planetary bodies in our solar system is reasonable.
Extraterrestrial caves will be high-priority targets for future robotic and human missions. Accurate identification and selection of candidate caves will be desirable for the establishment of astronaut shelters (temporary or permanent) on both the Moon and Mars. Martian caves may provide access to the deep subsurface where evidence of life is most likely to be preserved (provided life evolved on Mars), as well as significant water ice deposits for human consumption and for potentially generating hydrogen fuel to return humans to Earth.
Why CAVES - Astrobiology
This session will integrate topics across a wide range of scientific disciplines as they relate to exploring "Caves Across the Solar System".
Long-time NSS members, Penny Boston and Diana Northup, will moderate this exciting session on the frontier of speleology. Dr. Boston was recently named as Senior Advisor for Science Integration at the NASA-Ames Research Center in California. Dr. Northup is Professor Emerita of Biology at the University of New Mexico. Their academic specialties include the study of life in extreme environments.
Penny Boston, PhD
Senior Advisor for Science Integration, NASA
Diana Northup, PhD
Professor Emerita of Biology, University of New Mexico
Call For Abstracts:
Opens: Monday, March 1, 2021
Closes: Saturday, May 1, 2021
Notifications of Acceptance: Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Link will be available here after the call for abstract submission date. Check back.
The James G. Mitchell Fund was established in 1965 and is maintained by contributions to the National Speleological Foundation. This award includes a cash award for the best scientific paper presented at the NSS Convention by a student member (or members) of the society. Eligible papers shall be judged by an interdisciplinary panel appointed by the Mitchell Award sub-committee chair. For consideration, contact sub-committee chair, Dr. Kathy Lavoie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Castle Crags is a dramatic and well-known rock formation just south of Weed, California. Elevations range from 2,000 feet along the Sacramento River near the base of the crags, to over 6,500 feet at the summit of the tallest crag. Learn More