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MOON DAILY
Lunar lava tube could be used as a moon mission base
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Oct 19, 2017


Huge cave found on moon, could house astronauts: Japan scientists
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 19, 2017 - Scientists at Japan's space agency have discovered a huge moon cave that could one day house a base that would shelter astronauts from dangerous radiation and wild temperature swings, officials said Thursday.

Data taken from Japan's SELENE lunar orbiter has confirmed the existence of the 50 kilometre (31 miles) long and 100 metre wide cavern that is believed to be lava tube created by volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago.

The major finding was published this week in US science magazine Geophysical Research Letters.

"We've known about these locations that were thought to be lava tubes...but their existence has not been confirmed until now," Junichi Haruyama, a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, told AFP on Thursday.

The underground tunnel, located under an area called the Marius Hills, would help protect astronauts from huge swings in temperature and damaging radiation that they would be exposed to on the moon's surface, he added.

"We haven't actually seen the inside of the cave itself so there are high hopes that exploring it will offer more details," Haruyama said.

The announcement comes after Japan in June revealed ambitious plans to put an astronaut on the Moon around 2030.

That was the first time the agency had said it aimed to send an astronaut beyond the International Space Station.

The idea is to first join a NASA-led mission in 2025 to build a space station in the moon's orbit, as part of a longer-term effort by NASA to reach Mars.

The US also announced the country is committed to send astronauts to the moon.

"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 said this month.

China and India are also developing their space programmes.

In November, China's Shenzhou-11 spacecraft returned to Earth, bringing home two astronauts from the rising power's longest-ever orbital mission.

Beijing has also unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the Red Planet at the end of the decade.

NASA and other global space agencies are working hard on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

NASA and other agencies have long considered establishing an outpost on the lunar surface -- a moon base. Now, scientists at Purdue University may have found the perfect place for it.

In a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists confirmed the presence of a large lava tube among the Marius Hills, a series of lunar lava domes.

The open lava tube could serve like a giant bunker, providing shelter from the harsh conditions on the moon's surface. In their study, scientists argue lava tubes offer ideal protection from extreme temperature swings, radiation and meteorite impacts.

Lava tubes form when the outer edges of a lava flow harden into crust and the remaining lava drains away, leaving an empty cylinder.

"It's important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we're ever going to construct a lunar base," Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at JAXA, Japan's space agency, said in a news release. "But knowing these things is also important for basic science. We might get new types of rock samples, heat flow data and lunar quake observation data."

Scientists have known about the Marius Hills Skylight, the opening to the newly discovered lava tube. But until now, they weren't sure what the entrance led to.

When JAXA's SELENE spacecraft bounced radar off the area, the data revealed an echo-like signature suggesting the waves were bouncing back off the floor and ceiling of a tube-like structure. Gravity data from NASA's GRAIL mission also revealed an absence of mass beneath the surface surrounding the Marius Hills Skylight.

The combination of the two datasets helped scientists get a better idea of how deep and far the cavity stretched beneath the lunar surface.

"Our group at Purdue used the gravity data over that area to infer that the opening was part of a larger system," said Jay Melosh, a researcher on the GRAIL mission and a professor of planetary science at Purdue. "By using this complimentary technique of radar, they were able to figure out how deep and high the cavities are."

Earth hosts lava tubes, too, but they're not nearly as large as those found on the moon. Now, thanks to the latest research, scientists have a better idea of how expansive lunar lava tubes really are.

The new research could prove useful to NASA, as the Trump administration is pushing the space agency to focus on future missions to the moon. NASA is currently working with Russia's space agency, as well as other national space outfits, to design a lunar space station -- a base from which to explore the lunar surface and launch deep space missions to Mars and elsewhere.

MOON DAILY
Bigelow and ULA team up to propose a B330 Habitat in Low Lunar Orbit
Las Vegas, NV (SPX) Oct 19, 2017
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA's Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot. "We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project," said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace. "Our lunar depot pl ... read more

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