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posted by martyb on Friday October 20, @03:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the nascent-underground-economy dept.

Following up on a report from 2011, comes confirmation that, instead of a base on the moon, a better idea might be a base inside the moon:

"Japan's space agency said it had discovered an enormous cave beneath the lunar surface that could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts."

"The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale."

According to a science news article by UPI (United Press International):

In a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists confirmed the presence of a large lava tube among the Marius Hills, a series of lunar lava domes.

The open lava tube could serve like a giant bunker, providing shelter from the harsh conditions on the moon's surface. In their study, scientists argue lava tubes offer ideal protection from extreme temperature swings, radiation and meteorite impacts.

Lava tubes form when the outer edges of a lava flow harden into crust and the remaining lava drains away, leaving an empty cylinder.

"It's important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we're ever going to construct a lunar base," Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan's space agency, said in a news release. "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."

Scientists have known about the Marius Hills Skylight, the opening to the newly discovered lava tube. But until now, they weren't sure what the entrance led to.

When JAXA's SELENE spacecraft bounced radar off the area, the data revealed an echo-like signature suggesting the waves were bouncing back off the floor and ceiling of a tube-like structure. Gravity data from NASA's GRAIL mission also revealed an absence of mass beneath the surface surrounding the Marius Hills Skylight.

The combination of the two datasets helped scientists get a better idea of how deep and far the cavity stretched beneath the lunar surface.

"Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system," said Jay Melosh, a researcher on the GRAIL mission and a professor of planetary science at Purdue. "By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are."


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Related Stories

Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway 8 comments

Deep Space Gateway (DSG) is a planned space station in lunar orbit. The U.S. and Russia signed an agreement last year to work on the station's development. Now Russia has created an engineering department inside the RKK Energia space corporation in order to plan the nation's lunar exploration, including a possible manned landing:

Officially, Moscow has been on a path to put a human on the Moon since 2013, when President Putin approved a general direction for human space flight in the coming decade. The program had been stalling for several years due to falling prices for oil, the main source of revenue for the Russian budget. Last year, however, the Russian lunar exploration effort was given a new impetus when the Kremlin made a strategic decision to cooperate with NASA on the construction of a habitable outpost in the orbit around the Moon, known as Deep Space Gateway, DSG.

Although the US saw the primary goal of the DSG as a springboard for missions to Mars, NASA's international partners, including Russia, have been pushing the idea of exploring the Moon first. On the Russian side, RKK Energia led key engineering studies into the design of the DSG and participated in negotiations with NASA on sharing responsibilities for the project.

To coordinate various technical aspects of lunar exploration, the head of RKK Energia Vladimir Solntsev signed an order late last year to form Center No. 23Ts, which would report directly to him. According to a document seen by Ars Technica, the group will be responsible for developing long-term plans for human missions to the vicinity of the Moon and to its surface, as well as for implementing proposals for international cooperation in lunar missions. This is a clear signal that NASA might soon have a new liaison in Russia for all things related to the DSG. The same group will also take care of all the relevant domestic interactions between RKK Energia and its subcontractors.

Unlike the ISS, the DSG should not require any orbital boost burns and could reach any altitude above the Moon using ion thrusters.

Here are two op-eds from last year about the Deep Space Gateway:

Terry Virts: The Deep Space Gateway would shackle human exploration, not enable it

John Thornton: The Deep Space Gateway as a cislunar port

Related articles:


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Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Ends, "Follow-On" Launching Soon 5 comments

A NASA and German Aerospace Center mission using two spacecraft to map the strength of Earth's gravitational field has come to an end:

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission has come to an end after more than 15 years in Earth orbit. The twin satellites chronicled the changes of the Earth's water, ice, and land since the spacecraft were launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 17, 2002, on a mission that was originally only slated to last some five years. More than a decade after that, GRACE was still beaming data back to Earth when a technical issued forced mission planners to close out the program.

Similar in some aspects to other missions launched, GRACE made precise measurements via the two spacecraft – GRACE-1 and GRACE-2 – that comprised the mission. For GRACE's overall scientific objectives to be achieved the two satellites both had to be fully functional. However, this past September (2017), GRACE-2 encountered a battery issue that made it clear by mid-October that the battery would not allow scientists to operate its science instruments and telemetry transmitter. It was decided to decommission GRACE-2 and, in so doing, end GRACE's scientific mission.

[...] GRACE helped detail how our home world's changing seasons move water, ice, and even land (as a result of surface water mass changes) across the planet's surface, providing researchers with a better understanding of what drives the motion of these substances. Earth's climate, earthquakes, and our own activities all play their part in shaping the face of our world and GRACE provided insights into the dynamics of this change.

India and Japan to Collaborate on Lunar Lander and Sample Return Mission 4 comments

India, Japan working on lunar sample return mission

India plans to visit the moon a third time and also return, with Japan for company this time.

Their lander and rover mission will bring samples back from moon, the chiefs of the two space agencies said on Friday.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have started to work out the contours of their joint trip — which will be the third for both countries.

They did not say when it would be sent. The plans are in the early stages: Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, A.S.Kiran Kumar, and JAXA president Naoki Okumura said the 'implementation arrangements' are likely be reached in a couple of months.

Related: Japan Planning to Put a Man on the Moon Around 2030
Enter the Moon Cave
India's Chandrayaan-2 Moon Mission Planned for 2018


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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @04:39AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @04:39AM (#585109)

    ...or thermal exhaust port?

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by takyon on Friday October 20, @05:23AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday October 20, @05:23AM (#585114) Journal

      There's only one way to be sure.

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:12PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:12PM (#585403)

        Launch a proton torpedo down one?

    • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday October 20, @07:01AM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Friday October 20, @07:01AM (#585136)

      ... or it's what is left over after the moon-worms burrow thru? Better send in the space marines first.

      I wonder if building inside a cave will be cheaper then building surface habitats, if the cave walls acts as shielding less of it might be required, or at least used as an excuse to cheap out. Until they years afterwards find out it wasn't the case and we end up with a race of moon-mutants.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Freeman on Friday October 20, @04:31PM

        by Freeman (732) on Friday October 20, @04:31PM (#585290) Journal

        If you have a preexisting structure that can provide shielding, you might could get away with spray a thin layer of foam over everything, add "thin" metal structure over that, and make the entrance much more substantial. That would almost certainly give you a much bigger area than you would have been able to build on the surface.

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    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Friday October 20, @05:58PM

      by maxwell demon (1608) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @05:58PM (#585349) Journal

      No, they are Nazi hideouts.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @05:29AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @05:29AM (#585121)

    That's no moon...

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Friday October 20, @09:44AM (3 children)

    by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Friday October 20, @09:44AM (#585154) Journal

    50km long and 100 metres wide... How much steel and glass would be required to put an airtight glass canopy over the whole chasm?
    Turn the chasm into a long garden, and then burrow living /work space into the walls.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @03:41PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @03:41PM (#585266)

      No, you want it to remain open as a launch/landing area for rockets. You would also want to dig an inclined tunnel for easy surface access. Use the spoil for a blast wall between the launch area and the inflatable dome(s).

      • (Score: 2) by wonkey_monkey on Friday October 20, @04:29PM (1 child)

        by wonkey_monkey (279) on Friday October 20, @04:29PM (#585288) Homepage

        No, you want it to remain open as a launch/landing area for rockets.

        Why? To keep them out of the rain?

        --
        systemd is Roko's Basilisk
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @04:55PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @04:55PM (#585306)

          > To keep them out of the rain?

          Yes. With no atmosphere, those smaller meteoroids amount to a gentle but steady rain of rocks. Plus, think of maintenance. Wouldn't it be better to maintain/refurbish your transport in a protected, near-shirtsleeve environment underground? No radiation. Or you could build a tall rocket elevator/pad in that 1/6G environment and limit personnel exposure even more. The lunar surface is a harsh place.

  • (Score: 0) by MyOpinion on Friday October 20, @09:59AM (1 child)

    by MyOpinion (6561) on Friday October 20, @09:59AM (#585159)

    Is this "digging on the Moon" one of those "just around the corner, in 5 years or so" things?

    Like "overunity fusion", "flying cars", "'return' to the Moon", "orbital hotels", "Mars colonization" and "sub-orbital intercontinental flights"?

    --
    Truth is like a Lion: you need not defend it; let it loose, and it defends itself.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @10:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @10:38AM (#585167)

      From the article:

      Jaxa recently announced that it aimed to put a Japanese astronaut on the moon for the first time by around 2030...China has said it wants to conduct its first manned mission to the moon in around 2036...Russia, too, has said it hopes to start building a human colony – initially for just four people – on the moon by 2030.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Friday October 20, @10:37AM (17 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday October 20, @10:37AM (#585166) Journal

    All these dreams of colonizing other worlds, starting with Mars or the Moon, are nice but it'll be a lot harder than merely providing air and water, shielding people and an entire ecology from radiation, and growing crops. Not that those are exactly easy either. It looks like we really will have to set up a functioning biosphere, and we haven't figured out how to do that yet. Biosphere 2 didn't work, thanks not least to the concrete taking oxygen out of the air. Oxygen is corrosive stuff. Without some open space with breathable air, what we would have is an outpost, basically the space station, just on a large body with significant gravity.

    I wonder about our own psychology. What about problems such as Seasonal affective disorder? Cabin fever?

    Our notions of extraterrestrial colonies have a heavy European bias. Europeans had a rough time colonizing the New World. Tried to colonize Africa as well, with much less success. The tropical climate, and particularly the tsetse fly almost singlehandedly caused many such attempts to fail. An extraterrestrial colony that doesn't have a winter season could unwittingly support the tsetse fly, malaria, and lots of other thrilling tropical diseases and parasites. Relying on careful screening at the borders to keep out unwanted organisms doesn't seem practical over the long term, not when just one slip, anywhere, anytime, can introduce them.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Friday October 20, @10:56AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday October 20, @10:56AM (#585171) Journal

      I wonder about our own psychology. What about problems such as Seasonal affective disorder? Cabin fever?

      Other than the ISS, there have been these: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HI-SEAS [wikipedia.org]

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    • (Score: 3, Informative) by realDonaldTrump on Friday October 20, @11:50AM (3 children)

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @11:50AM (#585182) Homepage Journal

      Running Biosphere 2 is a very tough job, very tough financially and in many ways. It's a lot, a lot like reality TV. And Steve Bannon did OK as its CEO. Not brilliant but OK. He kept it in business.

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      • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Friday October 20, @12:06PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday October 20, @12:06PM (#585188) Journal

        Wow, 2 real for me.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio-Dome [wikipedia.org]

        Bannon, possibly indirectly responsible for Jack Black's career.

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        • (Score: 2, Funny) by realDonaldTrump on Friday October 20, @01:18PM

          by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @01:18PM (#585209) Homepage Journal

          I'll tell you, Stephen Miller is a great guy. A very smart Jewish guy. He does good work for me. I like Pauly, but his imitation of Stephen is really mean-spirited and not very good. What kind of person makes fun of a man's hairline? That's just mean. They call it Funny or Die. Let me tell you, it's not funny at all. I don't think that his imitation of Stephen gets Stephen at all, and it's meant to be very mean-spirited which is very biased and I don't like it so I can tweet that out.

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      • (Score: 3, Informative) by tangomargarine on Friday October 20, @04:33PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Friday October 20, @04:33PM (#585291)

        Wait, this is actually a thing? Huh. Yes, Bannon really was involved with Biosphere 2. Apparently he got along so badly with the scientists they sabotaged the experiment.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosphere_2#Second_mission [wikipedia.org]

        --
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    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by looorg on Friday October 20, @12:40PM (8 children)

      by looorg (578) on Friday October 20, @12:40PM (#585199)

      We might have somewhat different ideas about colonization but I'm fairly certain that Europeans did a bang up job of colonizing both the Americas and Africa, and a few more places. Sure it took some hard work, a genocide or two and then that whole slavery thing. But we got shit done eventually. No time to be a softy. If anything colonization of the moon should be a lot easier then since there are no indigenous population we have to pacify first. Question might be whom to send instead. I guess we could always do an Australia v2.0 and start sending the unwanted and criminals there first to get the ball rolling. If (or when) they croak it won't be as harsh as if some astronaut dies. Robots will probably be better tho, less food stuff required and you can pack them tighter in transport.

      I'm more interested in seeing whom the Russians and the Chinese are going to send, they don't tend to have our new found sensitivities when it comes to human rights and such. I suspect military first, perhaps a moon penal colony after.

      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:10PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:10PM (#585205)

        You are a psychopath.

        • (Score: 5, Insightful) by looorg on Friday October 20, @02:13PM (1 child)

          by looorg (578) on Friday October 20, @02:13PM (#585235)

          We can't all be sensitive delicate flowers. Someone has to get the job done.

          • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:16PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:16PM (#585405)

            Fucking psycho and you don't even see it, just hide behind some bullshit bootstrapping phrase.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:27PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:27PM (#585212)

        "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" (Mark 8:36 [biblehub.com])

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Friday October 20, @05:53PM

          by bob_super (1357) on Friday October 20, @05:53PM (#585347)

          Cold. Hard. Cash.
          And all the amazing privileges it entails.

          Any follow-up questions?

      • (Score: 1, Redundant) by DannyB on Friday October 20, @05:31PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Friday October 20, @05:31PM (#585329)

        I will mention the book "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". I notice it has already been mentioned elsewhere here.

      • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Friday October 20, @05:32PM

        by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @05:32PM (#585330) Journal

        Well if you're gonna be brutal about it send the Chinese to do the hard work, suffer construction accidents, etc., just like was done with the Trans-Continental Railroad. Then when they're done, assert prior claim, take possession, and kick them out.

        Nah, don't think it will work this time. The Chinese are quickly catching up in the military department and are just as likely to turn it around on the West.

        --
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      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday October 20, @05:43PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Friday October 20, @05:43PM (#585338)

        No time to be a softy.

        Hey, I use Linux I'll halve you know.

    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 20, @01:51PM (2 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @01:51PM (#585223) Journal

      An extraterrestrial colony that doesn't have a winter season could unwittingly support the tsetse fly, malaria, and lots of other thrilling tropical diseases and parasites. Relying on careful screening at the borders to keep out unwanted organisms doesn't seem practical over the long term, not when just one slip, anywhere, anytime, can introduce them.

      Yea, they'd have to work a little to remove the parasite.

      All these dreams of colonizing other worlds, starting with Mars or the Moon, are nice but it'll be a lot harder than merely providing air and water, shielding people and an entire ecology from radiation, and growing crops.

      I disagree. You were only able to find minor psychological issues, physiological issues due to low gravity which might not be minor but which we can deal with in various ways, and parasites that we don't have trouble with for the most part in the real world (where's the tsetse fly in your developed world HVAC?). The engineering, construction, and transportation (of habitat materials and staff) are the hard stuff.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bob_super on Friday October 20, @05:57PM (1 child)

        by bob_super (1357) on Friday October 20, @05:57PM (#585348)

        Keeping some suicidal idiot from opening the main hatch in a moment of desperation might be a problem too.
        Humans are the hardest part of the whole "human space exploration" thing.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 20, @06:23PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20, @06:23PM (#585356) Journal

          Keeping some suicidal idiot from opening the main hatch in a moment of desperation might be a problem too.

          That's not much of a problem. There would be modest loss of atmosphere and one dead idiot. Problem would then be fixed. Keep in mind that a lot of engineering that would protect against accidental releases of atmosphere and other hazards of space habitation also protect against deliberate human sabotage as well as suicides.

  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:20PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @01:20PM (#585210)

    Moon tunnels? who would have ever dreamed of such a thing?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by rylyeh on Friday October 20, @10:26PM

      by rylyeh (6726) Subscriber Badge <kadathNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday October 20, @10:26PM (#585458)

      This was another I read around time time I read The moon is a harsh mistress [URL:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lotus_Caves/]
      A hollow moon filled with intelligence - and plants!

      --
      "Wing framework tubular or glandular, of lighter grey, with orifices at wing tips. Spread wings have serrated edge."
    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Tuesday October 24, @07:43PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) on Tuesday October 24, @07:43PM (#587054) Homepage

      Moon tunnels? who would have ever dreamed of such a thing?

      Jules Verne. His moon exploration book was called "The first men in the moon", not "on the moon".

  • (Score: 1) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday October 20, @04:59PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday October 20, @04:59PM (#585309)

    The Lunar Sourcebook said about the same thing in 1991. Actually making it happen will be a lot easier than finding the political will to fund it.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday October 20, @05:47PM (2 children)

    by DannyB (5839) on Friday October 20, @05:47PM (#585344)

    Once you establish a base in a cave, and erect solar power (sorry coal power unlikely), then is it possible to use that toehold to use the energy source to excavate sub-moonian vast rooms interconnected by a tunnel network? Sort of like what's under an anthill but on a vast scale.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:18PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, @08:18PM (#585408)

      What is this? A moon cave for ANTS?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 21, @03:55PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 21, @03:55PM (#585684)

      Ants have a long, disastrous history with solar power.

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