Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Climbing and Mountaineering in Space

Sooner or later human beings will go beyond our moon to explore the solar system. And sooner or later, some of those astronauts will be drawn to the high cliffs and peaks of distant worlds. We can do little more than think about such objectives right now. But someday, perhaps AAI will run trips to Mons Huygens, the tallest mountain on the moon or to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and the biggest known volcano in the solar system.
As scientists make plans for a Mars trip, some are already thinking about the mountain climbing prospects on the red planet. Indeed, some even argue that it is a necessary step in the planet's exploration. Read more about it here.

In 2006, the Cassini Spacecraft discovered a gigantic mountain range on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. One scientist compared the range to the Sierras! I wonder how good the rock is... A report on this new range range may be found here.

The mountains of Venus were all named after the goddesses of different cultures. This planet, often called the morning star, might harbor one of the harsher environments for climbers. In the Cascades we worry about getting wet from a rain storm. On Venus, it rains sulfuric acid. If a storm came, getting wet would be the least of your problems. In such an environment, ropes would melt, slings would distigrate and all the cool stickers on your helmet would vanish!

Scientists believe that the tallest mountains in the solar system are on Io, a moon of Jupiter. There are mountains twice the size of Everest scattered about the planet. Although it appears that the geology there is quite active; and unfortunately active geology equals extreme danger to Earth climbers who don't need pressure suits or space ships to move around. I suspect that it means that it's a no go for future climbing expeditions on the small moon. To read more about these massive mountains, click here.

And as long as we're talking about inaccessible climbing, did you know that there is a gigantic mountain range under the sea? The Mid-Ocean Ridge System is the largest single volcanic feature on the planet. This massive range snakes its way around the Earth beneath the ocean. But I suppose that if the ocean were ever to dry up, people wouldn't be that psyched to check out the climbing. They'd probably have other things on their minds...

--Jason D. Martin

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