Building a home near a moon crater or a lunar sea may sound nice, but moon colonists might have a much better chance of survival if they just lived in a hole. That’s the message sent by an international team of scientists who say they’ve discovered a protected lunar “lava tube” — a deep, giant hole — that might be well suited for a moon colony or a lunar base. The vertical hole, in the volcanic Marius Hills region on the moon’s near side, is 213 feet wide and is estimated to be more than 260 feet deep, according to findings published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. More important, the scientists say, the hole is protected from the moon’s harsh temperatures and meteorite strikes by a thin sheet of lava. That makes the tube a good candidate
for further exploration or possible inhabitation, the article says. “Lunar lava tubes are a potentially important location for a future lunar base, whether for local exploration and development, or as an outpost to serve exploration beyond the Moon,” writes the team, led by Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher with the Japanese space agency JAXA. “Any intact lava tube could serve as a shelter from the severe environment of the lunar surface, with its meteorite impacts, high-energy UV radiation and energetic particles, and extreme diurnal temperature variations.” Lava tubes have previously been discovered on the moon, but the scientists say the new hole is notable because of its lava shield and because it does not appear to be prone to collapse.Lave tubes exist on Earth and also have been found on Mars. The cylinder-shaped caverns can be carved out by lava flows, volcanic eruptions, seismic activity or ground collapse resulting from meteoroid strikes. The scientists used high-resolution images from a Japanese moon orbiter called SELENE to discover this lunar lava tube.
The findings were published November 12, but they grabbed the attention of the public this week. NASA is reportedly working on plans to return to the moon by 2020 and to set up a temporary lunar colony by 2025 as part of the Constellation Program. Funding for the program, however, remains somewhat in question. The American space agency could not be reached for comment. news from cnn.com – The Moon is Earth’s only natural satellite and the fifth largest satellite in the Solar System. The average centre-to-centre distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,403 kilometres (238,857 mi), about thirty times the diameter of the Earth. The common centre of mass of the system (the barycentre) is located at about 1,700 kilometres (1,100 mi)—a quarter the Earth’s radius—beneath the surface of the Earth. The Moon makes a complete orbit around the Earth every 27.3 day (the orbital period), and the periodic variations in the geometry of the Earth–Moon–Sun system are responsible for the phases of the Moon,
which repeat every 29.5 days (the synodic period). The Moon’s diameter is 3,474 kilometres (2,159 mi), a little more than a quarter of that of the Earth. Thus, the Moon’s surface area is less than a tenth of the Earth (about a quarter of Earth’s land area, approximately as large as Russia, Canada, and the United States combined), and its volume is about 2 percent that of Earth. The pull of gravity at its surface is about 17 percent of that at the Earth’s surface. The Moon is the only celestial body on which human beings have made a manned landing. While the Soviet Union’s Luna programme was the first to reach the Moon with unmanned spacecraft, the NASA Apollo program achieved the only manned missions to date, beginning with the first manned lunar mission by Apollo 8 in 1968, and six manned lunar landings between 1969 and 1972–the first being Apollo 11 in 1969. Human exploration of the Moon temporarily ceased with the conclusion of the Apollo program, although a few robotic landers and orbiters have been sent to the Moon since that time. The U.S. has committed to return to the Moon by 2018. On November 13, 2009, NASA announced the discovery of proof that water exists on the Moon, based on data obtained from the LCROSS lunar impact mission.
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