On the BTE site I talk about using lasers to dig underground cavities on Mars for establishing a permanent base there. One advantage of bases deep underground is that they provide for complete shielding from galactic cosmic rays and radiation from the sun. A second advantage is that the inside surfaces of the cavities that are cut out within solid rock can serve as the walls, ceilings, and floors for rooms in the base. This minimizes the size and mass of structures that must be sent to Mars for constructing bases.
Using lasers to cut through rock is a technology that is almost completely unknown to most people, including people with technical educations or training. (You heard about it on the BTE site first!) There have been exactly zero videos on YouTube about using lasers to cut through rock. So today I copied two videos from the Argonne National Laboratory website on to YouTube. The videos are below.
The first video is just 37 seconds long. It shows a laser drilling a hole through a rock. The nice thing about this method of drilling is that it simply vaporizes the rock, and this eliminates debris while drilling. Think about creating underground bases on Mars for a moment inside of solid rock. Are we going to try to dynamite it room by room and then send bulldozers up to Mars to clean up all the debris? I don’t think so. So the great promise of using “laser-diggers”, as I called them on the BTE site, is that this would eliminate all of this old-fashioned messiness.
So imagine say five wheeled vehicles on Mars, each with a powerful laser mounted on it, as this group of laser-diggers works together drilling. Each laser would have a few thousand times greater output power than the one shown in the video. This would be pretty awesome to watch. And it seems rather Star Trekish, which makes it even more fun.
The second video is an extended piece from the History Channel about the coming of laser drilling technology to drill through rock.