Room on the moon

A deep, giant hole on the moon could be suitable enough for setting up human colonies, say scientists who have recently discovered the protected "lava tube" on the lunar surface. In a major discovery, geophysicists identified a vertical hole in the volcanic Marius Hills region on the moon’s near side. The dark pit is 213-feet wide and is estimated to be more than 260-feet deep, the CNN quoted from the findings published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

A thin sheet of lava protects the hole from the moon’s harsh temperatures and meteorite strikes and makes the tube suitable for further exploration or possible inhabitation. Lava tubes have previously been discovered on the moon but scientists say the new hole is notable because of its lava shield and because it does not appear to be prone to collapse.

"Lunar lava tubes are a potentially important location for a future lunar base, whether for local exploration and development or as an outpost to serve exploration beyond the Moon," writes the team, led by Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher with the Japanese space agency JAXA.

"Any intact lava tube could serve as a shelter from the severe environment of the lunar surface, with its meteorite impacts, high-energy UV radiation and energetic particles, and extreme diurnal temperature variations." The research was carried out using high-resolution images from a Japanese moon orbiter called SELENE.

According to the CNN, NASA has plans to return to the moon by 2020 and to set up a temporary lunar colony by 2025 as part of the Constellation Program. — IANS