When we imagine lunar colonies, they mimic cities in a small scale and have sweeping vistas that include the Earth hanging above the horizon, but, that’s a great way to get cancer super fast since we still don’t know how to protect ourselves from cosmic radiation. So, one solution might be to eschew scenic surface colonies in favor of lovely lava tubes.
Lava tubes on the Moon are basically the same as the ones we see here on Earth. Back in the Moon’s history when it was geologically active, molten rock flowed over the surface. The outside layer cooled first while the inside kept flowing, but once the Moon’s internal lava flow ceased, left behind were these huge hollow passages. Since the Moon has relatively lower gravity, it’s possible that these lava tubes could have high ceilings, perhaps large enough to allow a city to be erected inside them.
We can find these caves by looking for pits or “skylights" and JAXA scientists did just that, as did NASA scientists using the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Japan’s Lunar Radar Sounder looked at the area close to the Marius Hills Hole, and found these skylights might lead to lava tubes. Radar data shows a distinctive echo pattern of a loss of power followed by a peak, suggesting there might be a hollow underground lava tube in the area around these skylights.
This would be great for astronauts! The tube’s thick roof would be a natural shield against cosmic and solar radiation, meteor impacts, and the Moon’s extreme temperatures. It’s even possible that these tubes, with the end opening properly sealed with an airlock, could be pressurized with oxygen to create a breathable habitat. Yay, no space cancer!
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