Safe environment from hazardous radiations, says paper

A 1.7-km long and 120-metre wide cave near the moon's equator could, in the distant future, become a shelter for human expeditions.

An analysis by an instrument on Chandrayaan-1 revealed a gigantic lava tube in the Oceanus Procellarum area of the moon that could be a suitable “base station” for future human missions.

The cave provides “a safe environment from hazardous radiations, micro-meteoritic impacts, extreme temperatures and dust storms,” say scientists of the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad in a research paper published in the latest issue of Current Science.

Images of the lava tube were captured by the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), one of the 11 instruments onboard Chandrayaan, with a high 5-metre spatial resolution and three-dimensional viewing capability.

The lava tube also provides “a natural environmental control with a nearly constant temperature of -20°C, unlike that of the lunar surface that experiences extreme variation swinging from a maximum of 130°C to a minimum of –180°C in its diurnal cycle,” says the paper.

Human settlement on the moon is virtually impossible due to a hostile environment that lacks atmosphere. With its intrinsic magnetic field, the moon is vulnerable to meteorites, energetic particles and radiations.

The lava tube could be of scientific interest in itself, providing vital clues to the history of volcanism and the moon's thermal history.

The paper, ‘future human habitability on the moon' was authored by A. S. Arya, R. P. Rajasekhar, Guneshwar Thangjam, Ajai and A.S. Kiran Kumar of the Space Applications Centre.

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