Newly-Found Lunar Cave Is an Ideal Spot for a Moon Base

Sunday, 22 October 2017 - 4:31PM
Space
Moon
Sunday, 22 October 2017 - 4:31PM
Newly-Found Lunar Cave Is an Ideal Spot for a Moon Base
NASA
Ever since NASA and Russian space agency Roscosmos announced a joint plan to return to the moon, there's been a renewed interest in revisiting the giant orbiting body we haven't stopped by since Apollo 17 in 1972

And while that specific space station will exist in the moon's orbit, we may have just found an even better locale on the lunar surface itself. Japan's space agency JAXA recently uncovered an opening that measures about 50 meters (164 feet) in both width and depth, which they believe leads to a much deeper cavern up to 50 kilometers (30 miles) long, and 100 meters (328 feet) wide. Perceptive readers may notice that we could easily fit a few astronauts inside a cave that large. 

The raw data was first recorded using JAXA's Selene spacecraft, which was active from 2007 until 2009 and taking several measurements of lunar lava tubes. But it wasn't until a new study published this past week that they announced an "echo pattern" at the tube opening in the moon's Marius Hills, found using radar technology, which provides solid evidence that a hollow area exists underneath. 

While this cave may not be a volcanic hotspot now, it certainly was in the past. JAXA suspects that the cave was carved out by flowing lava around 3.5 billion years ago, creating a "skylight" opening in the moon's surface when the roof of the tube collapsed. It's this skylight in the Marius Hills that now serves as the cave's opening, and it makes for an ideal spot to build an outpost.

NASA

Speaking to The Guardian, JAXA senior researcher Junichi Haruyama commented on how the lava tubes could be useful to future lunar colonists:

Opening quote
"We've known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes… but their existence has not been confirmed until now. [Lava tubes] might be the best candidate sites for future lunar bases, because of their stable thermal conditions and potential to protect people and instruments from micrometeorites and cosmic ray radiation."
Closing quote


Seeing as NASA and several other space agencies/private companies all have a renewed interest in returning to the moon, and seeing as experts like Stephen Hawking are convinced we need to leave Earth at some point, now is a particularly good time to start thinking about where we'd want to land. 

Many companies like SpaceX are also looking toward Mars as a destination, which is also important so long as we don't end up with any The Martian scenarios, but considering how much shorter of a trip it is to the moon and back, manned lunar voyages might be more common than ever in the future, once everyone realizes how time-consuming a martian voyage will be.
Science
Science News
Space
Moon
No