A potential shelter has been found on the moon.
The Japanese space agency says that the cave, stretching 30 miles over the lunar surface, could be a temporary home for the astronauts of the future.
The cave could be used as protection against the dangerous radiation from the sun and cosmic rays as they build a more permanent base, it said. The moon has no real atmosphere, meaning that anyone living there wouldn’t be shielded from potentially deadly radiation like we are on Earth.
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The astronauts inside the cave would also be protected from asteroid impacts — which are also more dangerous for the lack of atmosphere — and there would be a more consistent temperature inside the hole.
A number of national and international bodies have proposed that humans will soon hear back to the moon and build a colony there. As well as allowing for further exploration of our closest neighbour, it could also serve as a stop off for further exploration of our solar system.
Japan wants to put an astronaut on the moon’s surface by 2030. They will join a NASA mission that hopes to build a moon base that will be used to head to Mars.
“We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundations we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” US Vice President Mike Pence has said.
The potential shelter is thought to have been formed by lava flowing on the moon as much as 3.5 billion years ago. It sits around a series of volcanic dimes known as the Marius Hills.
Scientists first spotted the hole using an orbiter, which saw only a 50 metre hole. But further exploration using radio waves found a lava tube that stretched for miles, the agency said.
There may even be useful water or ice in the deep cavern, surveys indicated.
The Kaguya satellite that found the cave has been offline since 2009, when it crashed into the moon’s surface. But scientists continue to find surprises in the data it sent back.