Japanese space agency says 50-km lunar cave would be great site for a human colony

Japanese astronomers announced this week that they discovered a 50-kilometer underground cave on the Moon. They said that this cave might have value not only for present-day scientists, but also future lunar settlers.
By Miriam Griffin | Oct 21, 2017
A newly discovered giant cave on the Moon has the official endorsement of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa)Japan's space programas a great site for a future human habitation. The cave measures 50 kilometers long and 100 meters wide, according to Jaxa researchers, and appears to have a stable temperature range, protection from space radiation, and maybe some residual water.

Jaxa announced the discovery this week after examining radar data from the Japanese-launched Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) space probe. The Selene was beaming its radar down onto a wide chasm on the moon's surface, and researchers determined from the measurements that the chasm was the entrance to a deep cave.

The cave is next to a range of volcanic domes on the surface, and the researchers think that the cave was a lava tube that formed about 3.5 billion years ago when the young moon was still geologically active. That alone is a major find, according to Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at Jaxa. He said it is the first time that researchers have seen and documented an actual lunar lava tube.

"We've known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes but their existence has not been confirmed until now," said Haruyama.

But these lava tubes might be valuable for future human settlers on the Moon, as well. Haruyama said that they are deep enough underground to provide protection from the Moon surface's extreme temperatures and scorching radiation from the sun.

"(Lava tubes) might be the best candidate sites for future lunar bases, because of their stable thermal conditions and potential to protect people and instruments from micrometeorites and cosmic ray radiation," Haruyama said.

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