Abstract Martian caves have revived interest in the field of subsurface exploration because they are the potential destinations for future human habitats and astrobiological research. There are many pits on Mars, but some of them look like collapsed cave roofs. These special pits are formed by the collapse of surface materials into the subsurface void spaces. The signature of life is probable in a subsurface cave on Mars as the subsurface environment can protect life from the harsh and dangerous radiation environment of the surface. In a cave, there may be an abundance of minerals, fluids, and other key resources. Therefore, locating the access point of the subsurface cave is essential and crucial for formulating plans for robotic/human explorations of the Red Planet, Mars. We have used remote sensing data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO; NASA), Mars Global Surveyor (MGS; NASA), and Mars Odyssey (NASA) for identifying, mapping, and classifying selected special pit candidates on the flank of Elysium Mons, Mars. A total of 32 special pit candidates has been identified and classified based upon morphology and geological context. Out of these, 26 are newly discovered ones. The thermal behavior of 23 special pit candidates confirms that the special pits are radiating heat energy at nighttime, similar to potential caves. Also, cave entrances have been detected in nine candidates using data from the HiRISE camera onboard MRO. These sites could be important destinations for future robotic/human exploration and the search for life on Mars.
Keywords planets and satellites: individual (Mars) – planets and satellites: surfaces – planets and satellites: general
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