The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has discovered a giant underground lava tube on the Moon—a potentially ideal environment for a lunar base!
Located just north of the lunar equator within Oceanus Procellarum (the “Ocean of Storms”, and the moon’s largest mare), the ~1 mile long and 395-foot wide cave is an uncollapsed section of a rille (pictured above).
“This is a monster cave.” -Ashutosh Arya, senior Indian geologist; “Cave hope for moon house- Indian discovery raises possibility of shelter“, The Telegraph India
With a roof estimated to be 131 feet thick, the lava tube cave could provide some invaluable benefits as a moon base, including:
- Natural protection from radiation and meteorites, with radiation only expected to penetrate down only about 20 feet of the roof’s 131;
- A far more balanced temperature than the surface (a steady -4°F compared to day/night swings of 248°F to -292 °F); and
- A ready, premade exterior structure.
“Such natural protection will help cut down the bill for future human habitats.” -A.S. Kiran Kumar, principal investigator for Chandrayaan-1′s Terrain Mapping Camera; ”Cave hope for moon house- Indian discovery raises possibility of shelter“, The Telegraph India
The central location ain’t bad, either:
While there’s perhaps something less romantic about hiding in a cave versus building a big, shiny base on the surface, lava tubes like this should prove to be an invaluable resource. There could be more coming, too: Japan’s Kaguya identified a potential lava tube in 2009, and detailed surveying of the moon is really just getting started. (Check out NASA’s ongoing LRO mission and the public Moon Zoo project for more survey and mapping fun.)
For all the nerdy details, check out the ISRO’s published article on the finding in the journal Current Science [PDF], and keep an eye here as the ISRO, NASA, China, and others pile up more imaging discoveries :)