Discovery of 500km lunar cave raises hopes for human colonisation of moon

Terry Joseph
October 23, 2017

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has discovered an enormous cave under the lunar surface, something it calls a "very significant" discovery, due to its value for both science and human expansion into space.

Man's dream of invading every sacred space and setting up a polluting colony is that much closer to fruition on Earth's signature satellite, the blessed moon.

Once the internal stream of lava stops flowing, it sometimes drains and forms a hollow tunnel.

Scientists believed lava tubes existed, but have not been confirmed until now. "And that's the kind of thing that could also be done by advanced robotics with machine-learning systems on board".

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. But until now, they weren't sure what the entrance led to. With a thick shell covering it, a human settlement on the Moon could avoid the bulk of radiation bombarding the surface while being shielded from minor impacts from small meteorites. By surveying the areas where GRAIL had identified mass deficits, or less mass under the surface, they narrowed down the data they needed to analyze.

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Jay Melosh, a GRAIL co-investigator and distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University, said: "They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn't have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone".

The city of Philadelphia is shown inside a theoretical lunar lava tube.

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 existence of lava tubes on the moon has been speculated in the past, but this combination of radar and gravity data provides the clearest picture of what they look like and how big they are yet. Unfortunately, it's a lot more complicated than that, and the idea of any kind of shelter on the Moon's surface requires tackling some very hard problems, such as incredible temperature swings and of course radiation from space.

That was the first time the JAXA space agency had said it planned to send an astronaut beyond the International Space Station.

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