First Moon colonists could be molemen living giant 50km cave

A Japanese space probe data confirmed that an enormous cavern stretching for about 50 kilometers exists beneath the moon’s surface, offering a possible protected site for future lunar bases, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Oct. 18.

The cavern, found in the Marius Hills area on the near side of the moon, is about 100 meters wide and extends for about 50 km, according to data taken by JAXA’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), also called the Kaguya moon probe.

In 2009, the Kaguya probe found a large shaft with an opening about 50 meters in diameter in the Marius Hills area. The shaft descends about 50 meters beneath the surface.

The cave would have about 2 square miles of space. With urban population density, this cave could hold 100,000 people.

The JAXA team analyzed data obtained from a lunar radar sounder on the probe that indicated an underground structure extended west from the shaft.

If future lunar explorers could use the underground space for a base, it could provide shelter from cosmic radiation and menacing temperatures, while water or ice could be used as fuel, the JAXA team said.

The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale.

The chamber could be used as a base for astronauts and their equipment, because it would protect them from extreme temperatures – ranging from an average of 107C during the day to -153C at night – and radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

24 thoughts on “First Moon colonists could be molemen living giant 50km cave”

  1. Wonder what happens if you pressurize a section of the lava tube. Does the pressure make the roof less likely to collapse, as now there is force on the inside surface… or does it destabilize the geology?

    Any Selenian civil engineers available??

  2. This is a Great Old Idea ! But first must confirm that their is Lunar Water Ice at the Lunar Lava Tube Cave ! Though this will be a great location for a third or fourth Lunar Base… The Lunar Poles are two great locations for a commercial Lunar Base because of the finding of Lunar Water Ice ! And a second or third location would be at one place on the Lunar Equator. The commercial Clementine Base at the Lunar South Pole will “Follow the Water” and help jump start the Lunar Economy ! Back to the Moon to Stay and onto Mars and Beyond-Ad Astra… tjl

    • The tubes can trap water vapour and will be cold enough for it to freeze. Odds are they’re at least coated in frost.

  3. Even here on Earth, Man started out living in caves – so it’s kind of appropriate to start out that way on the Moon too. Maybe send some rovers into these caves, to laser-map them to exact dimensions, then build a custom-fitted liner envelope to put inside them after spraying adhesive foam insulation on the cave walls. The liner would attach to an airlock that would be placed near the mouth of the cave.

    • Probably not a rover, but a flying drone instead. The thing is, the bottom of the lava tube stands a good chance of being a horrible mess of fallen rock. Certainly around the entrance!

      On the Moon a rocket powered drone can stay aloft for a substantial period of time, and move quite fast while doing it.

  4. A look from orbit can’t really assess if these caves are apt for building something in them.

    If you want to use lunar regolith as shield, it’s simpler to dig a trench, put your inflatable and/or modular buildings and plumbing there and cover them with the regolith you just dug out.

    Later you can prospect these caves and see if they can be used for this purpose.

    • If you want to use lunar regolith as shield, it’s simpler to dig a trench, put your inflatable and/or modular buildings and plumbing there and cover them with the regolith you just dug out.

      1. Find right sized crater
      2. Level and smooth the regolith in the crater as desired
      3. Add inflatable habitat to crater, inflate
      4. Build frame & structure over crater
      5. Place regolith on frame & structure

      It is good to have a roof with known structural properties. Regolith is relatively light in 1/6th g.

      New comments system still sucks.

      • So ignore the naturally occurring superstrong structure with 50m of baked regolith wall that lasted 3.5 Billion years and build your own with 2 feet think walls? Really?

    • … or you can save the time and resources you’d spend digging and refilling trenches by treating the tubes as pre-dug, already shielded workspaces and instead using the time and resources to reinforce a selected length of tube to the specifications that make you comfortable. Expand along the tube as needed.

      Same trick would work on Mars as well…

    • tchernik said:

      “A look from orbit can’t really assess if these caves are apt for building something in them.”

      That depends on what you are looking with. The GRAIL mission data was analyzed by a Purdue team, and found many more voids than the 200 “skylight” entrances found in LRO pics. The next step is to use an orbiting Ground-Penetrating Radar with a sufficient combination of wavelength and aperture to characterize these voids. *Then* you have a better understanding of where you want to send a small rocket flying probe into the tubes, and get an idea which is best for a settlement. Only then do you initiate a human landing to start building a Phase 1 Base, that starts ISRU activity to allow a settlement, which settlement can provide the ability to build a sealed lava tube community under the Lunar surface. It simply takes lots of steps.

  5. Of course it’s structurally sound! The last volcanism on the Moon was over a billion years ago, and it’s been bombarded with meteors ever since. Any lava tube surviving at this point would have to be very sound indeed, it’s survivorship bias.

    There should be other, somewhat smaller ones nearby.

    • … until you realize that there used to be a lot more lava tubes but there all filled in now for some reason and ol’ grandfather tube is set to be the last to go…

      I’ve no particular mechanism in mind for a possible cause, just saying that things last forever… until they don’t.

      Best to treat such tubes as temporary workspaces and reinforce as you go.

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