Rover mission to go cave diving on Moon + Mediterranean almost dried up in Miocene

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NASA Considers a Rover Mission to Go Cave Diving on the Moon

EXCERPT: . . . Scientists at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in Texas on March 20 presented plans for Moon Diver, designed to rappel hundreds of feet down into large pits on the moon’s surface. During descent, science instruments in the rover’s wheel wells would unfold and study the ancient moon by way of its exposed stratigraphy—the layers of rock hidden below the surface.

There are over a dozen deep pits known on the moon, all located in its mare—the lava-covered parts of the lunar surface that have cooled into dark, basaltic plains. Some of these pits are as wide as a football field and big enough to swallow entire buildings. They formed as voids in the lunar subsurface whose ceilings eventually collapsed, creating cavernous openings. These cavities expose fresh cuts of rock that are of particular interest to planetary geologists—slices of the moon’s rock record that have been largely unaltered for billions of years.

A spelunking Moon Diver rover could reveal the types, fluxes and timescales of ancient lava eruptions on the moon. [...] Scientists are also interested in lunar caverns because they could provide shelter for future equipment or even crewed research centers. Below the moon’s surface, astronauts would be shielded from radiation, micrometeorites, the harmful effects of lunar dust and the dramatic temperature swings between lunar night and day. But before anyone could start building a subterranean moon base, scientists need to get a better sense of what lurks below the lunar maria. (MORE)

Ancient River Discovery Confirms Mediterranean Nearly Dried Up in the Miocene

INTRO: A giant abandoned river system the size of the Nile was recently discovered under the eastern Mediterranean. The ancient river flowed for only about 100,000 years, but the evidence it left behind is helping scientists understand what happened in the region in the late Miocene during the Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), when a diminished Mediterranean Sea was isolated from the Atlantic Ocean.

About 6 million years ago, the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow, rocky channel between present-day Spain and Morocco that connects the Mediterranean and Atlantic, closed. With no water flowing in from the ocean, the Mediterranean slowly evaporated until tectonic activity reopened the channel more than 600,000 years later. The extent of the inland sea’s evaporation during this period has been contested since the MSC was discovered nearly 50 years ago. The new findings, reported in Geology, shed light on just how little water remained.

“In order for there to be a huge river system there…the Mediterranean [basin] would have had to be exposed a fair amount,” says lead author Andrew Madof, a geologist at the Chevron Energy Technology Company in Houston. “Maybe 75 to 80 percent [of the basin] was dried out, but there was probably a lake that this river system was flowing into.” (MORE)

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