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posted by martyb on Friday October 20 2017, @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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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday October 20 2017, @01:51PM (2 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20 2017, @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 2017, @05:57PM (1 child)

    by bob_super (1357) on Friday October 20 2017, @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 2017, @06:23PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday October 20 2017, @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.