It's likely an excellent place to set up shop.
Chinese researchers are investigating the feasibility of having astronauts construct a base inside lava tubes under the lunar surface, an exciting prospect that could one day allow astronauts to establish a more permanent presence on the Moon.
Scientists have long suspected that our natural satellite is riddled with intricate systems of hollow, tube-like tunnels, left behind by ancient lava currents.
Our evidence so far is still relatively limited, with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter picturing hundreds of "skylights," per Universe Today, which scientists suspect were left behind after tunnel ceilings collapsed. But we have yet to get a first-hand look at these structures — if they exist as we've been picturing them at all, that is.
But if they are there, international space agencies are intrigued. Once inside a lava tube, astronauts could be sheltered not only from showers of micrometeorites but also from the dangerous levels of radiation the atmosphere-less space rock is blasted with.
During a recent conference, Zhang Chongfeng from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology said that future spacecraft and lunar landers could explore these lava tubes, according to state-run news outlet Xinhua.
Zhang and his colleagues have been studying lava caves in China to get a better understanding of the structures. To explore the vertical "skylight" entrances to these caves, the researchers suggest that space travelers may have to fly inside with a spacecraft.
China isn't alone in investigating the idea. NASA scientists have also been exploring ways to do just that for well over a decade, with various teams coming up with a number of solutions over the years, from "hopping pit-bots" to rolling spacecraft.
To hone in on a destination, Chinese researchers have picked lava tubes at the Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis and Mare Fecunditatis as their primary targets, according to Xinhua.
They suggest we could probe the surrounding areas and openings with walking or wheeled robots capable of adapting to a range of different environments. Zhang suggests auxiliary spacecraft could fly into these caves to map the walls and ceilings with radars.
A lunar base could be composed of multiple residential and scientific research cabins inside the cave with a communication and energy hub at the entrance, Zhang proposed.
But getting to the point where Chinese taikonauts could set up shop inside one of these lava tubes could take many years.
At the same time, the country has made astonishing progress in terms of exploring the lunar surface — China has successfully sent several rovers to the lunar surface over the last decade — and its first crewed landing is tentatively scheduled for 2030.
More on China and the Moon: China Announces Plans to Build Moon Base Using Lunar Soil
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