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The Caves of Mars Project is a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts funded program to assess the best place to situate the research and habitation modules that a manned mission to Mars would require.

Caves and other underground structures, including lava tubes, canyon overhangs, and other Martian cavities would be potentially useful for manned missions, for they would provide considerable shielding from both the elements and intense radiation that a Mars mission would expose astronauts to. They might also offer access to minerals, gases, ices, and any subterranean life that the crew of such a mission would probably be searching for.

The program also studies designs for inflatable modules and other such structures that would aid the astronauts.

2007 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

NASA scientists studying pictures from the Odyssey spacecraft have spotted what they think may be seven caves on the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. The cave entrances measure from 100 to 252 metres (330 to 830 ft) wide and they are believed to be at least 73 to 96 metres (240 to 310 ft) deep. Because light did not reach the floor of most of the caves, it is likely that they extend much deeper than these lower estimates. Dena was the only exception, its floor was observed and measured to be 130m deep. The caves may be the only natural structures offering protection from the micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet's surface.[1]

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