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In the near future, NASA has discovered the existence of a huge pyramid buried under the red dunes of Mars but no signs of life were detected. NASA has already achieved three successful space missions to Mars, with zero casualties. Folks at NASA are intending to keep a clean record, so they are planning this mission very carefully and they are preparing a list of things to expect when exploring this pyramid with analogy to Earth's pyramids. My question is :

What preparations should NASA make in order to ensure that everybody make it out alive ?

EDIT : Since it's hard to prepare for the unknown, the tech level of the aliens when they constructed the pyramid was similar to ancient Egypt's tech level.

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    $\begingroup$ Although really interesting question, I am afraid that this is too story based $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Mar 15 '16 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ I guess it's impossible to ensure the success venturing the unknown $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Mar 15 '16 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ Don't send in humans. Use remote controlled robots. If there are humans on Mars, all the better for controlling those robots. Spirit And Opportunity are working fine on Mars' surface from Earth remote control too. If NASA folks build a few smarter automated robots specifically for this mission, they should be fine. At least no human lives would be lost even if the mission fails. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Mar 15 '16 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ the tech level doesn't change the fact - it's an unprecedented enterprise, success can't be guaranteed; actually, you even don't have the criteria of success $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Mar 15 '16 at 11:24
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think NASA would assume the tech level of the aliens was that of Egypt. Otherwise there would be plenty of evidence of aliens which would give them a much better idea what to expect. Also, I rather doubt NASA would really be in charge at that point. They'd get archaeologists, anthropologists, etc. to take charge. From there, you can probably just look up how real-world people investigated the pyramids on Earth. $\endgroup$ – MichaelS Mar 15 '16 at 11:31
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Preparations?

Well, before anyone can go for an unknown alien pyramid at Mars' surface, you should have a lifting-system that can move the whole expedition over there.

Recently that Exo-Mars-Mission set up by the ESA was launched by a Roscosmos (russian) rocket because NASA doesn't have a system powerful enough to get something this big even close to Mars. If the poor guys there don't get any more funds by whoever will be elected as Mr (or Mrs) President, all you can afford for a pyramid exploration would be some small robot or a joint venture with other space agencies. If you want to have a full blown mars base staffed with living humans doing the exploration, you'll have to send at least a dozen missions to Mars, that all have to work out fine.

Yea... there was that movie/book about the guy who grows potatoes at Mars because they forget him. It did look like its easy to send a human exploration team to mars (and back, partially), but I never gasped where all the money necessary for this came from.

Money

So if you want to have your exploration a single-country-one, everything that goes up would certainly show a bunch of ads... every big company would kill to be the first one to advertise to an alien species. The other option would be to have a joint venture; NASA, India, China, Japan, Europe (ESA), Russia (Roscosmos), and even Brasil all have some kind of space program. This is something the whole earth really should take part of.

Explorers

As the others said: send a robot in. However you do not want to control it from Earth. It would be like a computer game with a lag of several minutes (citation needed). That guy in front of the screen would notice that his RC-car fell into a hole minutes after it happened.

So make it fully automatic (and make sure it does not paint human private parts at the interior walls), or alternatively already have an space base up there. Even a simple base in orbit would be a great help in terms of the ability to respond to the discovery. This way at least you do not have to explain where all the money grew from all this sudden. Even more - an existing base could produce a makeshift a robot on their own if necessary; If everything fails, go collect one of the mars-rovers and let the group-mechanic play with it.

But never ever would someone be allowed to send in a human. The only exception would be when the mean alien crawls out and kidnap the exploration teams females. But that is one of these tropes... "mars need woman" or whatever its name was.

So... my vote: you need to start with having a fully autonomous explorer robot crawling in (bring a fiber-optic line with you, because no one knows how the wlan will be inside the pyramid), or have some less advanced remote-controlled vehicle moving through while a human operator operates the controls from a fairly close proximity.

But beside... what its inside? alien mummies? :)

EDiT: I appreciate that someone looks over my typos, but whats up with the change of multiple (correctly written) words just because they are... i don't know? It feels not right if you discovered an error, hit edit and find sentences that differ in great detail from your original ones... strangely, the history says I did the changes... must be some kind of alien mummy telepathy ;)

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The problem with preparing to perform an exploration of a large alien structure which is itself in a hostile environment is that it is by definition, alien. Without any clue as to the physiology or psychology of the alien builders of this structure, we cannot know its purpose from its external structure.

The investigators would be foolish to make any assumptions other than that the structure is laden with lethal traps and is on the verge of structural collapse.

Hence, any initial exploration would take place robotically. The robots' human drivers would sit safely in their habitats on Mars well distant - and preferably separated by a mountain range (in case the structure houses the equivalent of a nuclear device) - from the alien pyramid until it could be shown that humans would not be physically imperilled by their presence at the site. Most likely, there would be a number of robots, each specialising in a particular type of exploration, including digging, drilling, weight-lifting, narrow-space infiltration, and so on, every robot equipped with a broad range of sensors, and each type of robot available in several instances to provide a backup against mishaps.

Only once the structure has been shown to be safe for robots over an extensive period of time would humans be permitted to venture anywhere near it, and even then extreme caution would be exercised, with the numbers of investigators limited to no more - or less - than two until their safety can be demonstrated.

Regardless of the fact that the OP says that these pyramids were built with low tech, and like the Egyptian pyramids, were built to last, the investigators will not be able to either know or assume that. They must - for their own safety and that of their friends and relatives and all the other inhabitants of Earth - proceed initially as if the structure was designed and intended to cause the destruction of all of humanity, or at least to kill anyone who investigates it. No assumption can be made about the stability of the structure - it may have been made to withstand external stresses as present on Mars, but to collapse at the slightest disturbance inside it. Without such caution, the unknowns concealed within could - figuratively or even literally - jump up and bite the investigators on their backsides.

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    $\begingroup$ There might also be an animal phase, like sending dogs or monkeys in, in case there's some space magic that only affects organics. We did similar things in early rocket trials. $\endgroup$ – MichaelS Mar 16 '16 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Monty you mentioned something about structural collapse, but pyramids were built to last for thousands of years, i mean look at the pyramids of Egypt, they still in good shape. $\endgroup$ – Javert Mar 16 '16 at 7:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Javert Yes but the pyramids on earth were built by humans. An alien structure, no matter how much it looks like an earth structure, could have an entirely different function, construction and purpose. You'd be stupid to assume it would be in any way similar to a human pyramid. $\endgroup$ – evilscary Mar 16 '16 at 11:51

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