Japanese scientists have discovered a massive cave on the Moon that could serve as shelter for astronauts from damaging radiation and huge temperature swings (ranging from an average of 107C during the day to -153C at night).
The scientists at Japan’s space agency spotted the cave, measuring about 50 kilometers long and 330 feet wide, under an area called the Marius Hills. According to AFP, the underground tunnel may have been created as a result of volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.
The cave may contain ice or water deposits that could be transformed into fuel. Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP:
“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.
“The same stable and protected environment that would benefit future human explorers also makes them an enticing target for scientific study. Careful examination of their interiors could provide unique insights concerning the evolutionary history of the moon. We haven’t actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details.”
According to the International Business Times, scientists from JAXA and Purdue University used radar data from the Japanese spacecraft to track suspected depressions on the Moon’s surface. Haruyama added:
“It’s important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we’re ever going to construct a lunar base. But knowing these things is also important for basic science. We might get new types of rock samples, heat flow data and lunar quake observation data.”
China, Japan and Russia hope to send humans to the Moon within the next two decades. The discovery of the cave is going to ease the problem and hassle of building a structure from scratch and give the future moon settlers a more permanent and a strong residing solution.
Since space debris or small asteroids that get attracted by the Moon’s gravity do not burn out easily, the cave will provide a much safer option for a base. And not only will it be a research base for the scientists, it will also be used as a pit stop for deep space missions.