October 19, 2019

29.03.11: Lunar Lava-Tubes.

Living on the Moon will be a tough proposition for future astronauts. With lunar daylight stretching for two terrestrial weeks, astronauts and equipment will have to be prepared for swings in temperature from +120 to -180 Celsius in the shade.

Another primary threat is posed from solar and cosmic radiation. Now, researchers at the Space Applications Centre in Ahmadabad, India may have found a tentative safe haven; reporting in the February issue of Current Science, analysis of data gathered by India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft shows a partially collapsed lava tube. Located in the Oceanus Procellarum, this fascinating feature consists of two collapsed lava tubes stretching for 3.9 km and 1.9km, respectively. But it is the interrupted stretch between the two that is interesting… could this be an uncollapsed section joining the two? Researchers have computed a length of 1.72 km and a diameter of perhaps 120 meters, giving the tube a volume of about 0.02 km3… might this be a site for a future moon base? To contain a pressure of one Earth atmosphere, its calculated that a minimum roof thickness of 6 meters needs to be satisfied; researchers calculate the Procellarum tube may be at least 70 meters thick. This would provide more than adequate shielding against radiation hazards and micro meteorite impacts. At very least, this area begs further exploration by the fleet of proposed international lunar landers of the next decade. Japan’s SELENE orbiter also found tantalizing evidence for lunar caverns during its lunar exploration.

Launched in October 2008, Chandrayaan-1 was India’s first exploration mission to the moon. In 2013, they hope to follow this up with Chandrayaan-2 which will contain a lander and rover in addition to an orbiter… will future astronauts call this lunar lava tube in the Ocean of Storms home?

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  1. [...] of the Moon’s gravitational field as well as pinpoint laser altimeter modelling and evidence of collapsed lava tubes that could be one day used for astronaut habitats. But some of the truly stark beauty of the Moon [...]

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