J. Judson Wynne



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Publication Date

June 2011


Explorers Club Flag Report (Flag # 139) Submitted: 17 June 2011 Jut Wynne 1,2, Murzy Jhabvala 3, Brittany Wells 4, Marty Trout 4, Dave Decker 5, Daniel R. Ruby 6, Keith Muhlestein 7, Doug Billings 8, James Rice 8, Brian Taylor 9, Daniel Loewen 10, Jacques Vachon 4and Nathalie A. Cabrol 1 1SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center, Mountain View, CA; 2Colorado Plateau Research Station and Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff; 3NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD; 4NASA, Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA; 5Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; 6Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, University of Nevada‐Reno, NV; 7Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, University of Texas, San Antonio; 8Southern California Grotto, National Speleological Society, Los Angeles, CA; 9Institute for Astrophysical Research, Boston University, MA; and, 10Fresno County Office of Education, Court Schools, Fresno, CA. email: Caves on Earth offer microclimates that can support extremophyllic organisms and may contain evidence of extinct life forms. On Mars, caves are features that may offer protection from harsh surface conditions and are important sites to search for extinct/ extant life forms. Additionally, these protected environments may serve as locations for habitats or shelters for future human exploration. To select Martian caves for exploration, we must develop an understanding of terrestrial cave thermal behavior and how thermal properties may influence the thermal signature associated with the entrance. This will ultimately enable us to differentiate caves from non‐cave anomalies (shallow caves or shelters) and enable us to develop selection criteria for targeting and prioritizing Martian caves for robotic exploration. Caves with large volume and greatest subterranean extent will be the highest priority targets for NASA. Researchers are actively developing techniques to understand how to detect caves on Earth and Mars, and searching for caves and cave‐like features on Mars using remote sensing analytical techniques. Rinker (1975) and Wynne et al. (2007, 2008a, 2008b, 2009) have improved the ability to detect caves on Earth. Cushing et al. (2007) has analyzed thermal and visible imagery to examine cave‐ like features on Arsia Mons, Mars. Keszthelyi et al. (2007) has identified lava tube remnants, Cushing et al. (2007) and Cushing and Titus (2010) have identified pit craters, and Cabrol et al. (2009) has identified at least 677 features likely associated with speleogenesis including possible lava tubes, deep cavities associated with pit chains morphology, cracks associated with faulting, sink holes, and volcanic vents. Open Access - Permission by Author(s) See Extended description for more information.


United States, Cave Ecology









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