With various space agencies eyeing up moon missions in the not-too-distant future, Japanese scientists may have just spotted the perfect place for Man’s first moon colony.
A fissure beneath the moon’s surface was spotted by a radar instrument on Japan’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE) probe, and is about 50 kilometres long.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said that the fissure, located beneath the domes of the moon’s Marius Hills, may be an ancient subterranean lava tube.
JAXA senior researcher Junichi Haruyama said that such lava tubes might be the ‘might be the best candidate sites for future lunar bases’ – shielding future explorers from the moon’s wildly fluctuating temperatures, and the barrage of cosmic radiation on the surface.
Haruyama said, "We’ve known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes … but their existence has not been confirmed until now."
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These underground networks of “lava tubes” could protect future astronauts from the harsh conditions on the moon.
Unlike Earth, the moon does not have a thick atmosphere and magnetic field, so it is unprotected against cosmic radiation, and receives frequent meteorite impacts.
The moon’s temperature also varies wildly, going up and down by several hundred degrees Celsius during one lunar day.