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Lava tube systems and caves have been discussed a lot when it comes to establishing a base on the Moon or Mars in order to protect it from the continuous exposure to lethal radiation, as well as advice on covering the buildings with a layer of regolith if such base is on a plain. However, I find these options somewhat impractical, demoralizing, and dangerous to access in the case of some lava tubes.

I was wondering if anyone (some studies maybe) has pondered the benefits of settling on a narrow valley as a compromise solution, rock protecting you from all sides except above you, having much easier access to the surface while also being more protected than on the plains. Would it be worth it?

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    $\begingroup$ Narrow valleys have challenges - landing there is very risky! Also, what is wrong with living underground - many people would have no problem with this at all. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 17 '21 at 11:49
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Valleys share many of the access and safety issues and geographic limitations of caves. Unless you're very lucky to find the perfect lava tube/valley right next to a good landing site, you will probably need to do blasting and heavy construction to build an access, level the floor, clear or secure unstable areas, etc.

With the same equipment, you could dig a trench custom-fit to your building designs in the location of your choice, in many locations only having to move regolith around. Bags, blocks, or just piles of the excavated material could be used for additional construction material and shielding.

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No, but yes. Going underground is best for the manned crew elements, but that's generally the cheapest and most easily replaced component. Having to send large mining rigs, tunnel boring machines, etc is going to take so much more money than training a couple of new crews. It'd make much more economic sense to train and send up a replacement crew when the old one gets incapaciated due to cancers.

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    $\begingroup$ That's awfully harsh... $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Nov 17 '21 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @kimholder yes, but so is space. Currently, a 4% increase in the astronauts risk of cancer over their lifetime is considered a blocker to going to mars. 50 years ago, it was a 50% chance of making it and they still went to the moon. A few hundred years ago, the crews of transatlantic voyages arrived at their destinations half-starving and with several deaths. It only requires a nation with a large population and less regard for individual safety for this to make absolute sense. Which is why I think China will be the first to Mars. They'll just keep shooting taikonauts at it until one survives. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Nov 18 '21 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Those of you downvoting the answer, please add your reasoning as a comment, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Nov 18 '21 at 14:58

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