ISRO finds safe cave on moon; can be used as human outpost

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New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) ISRO scientists have discovered agiant underground chamber on the moon, which could be used asa lunar base by astronauts for inter-planetary missions.

Scientists at the Space Applications Centre (SAC), usingdata gathered from Chandrayaan-I''s Terrain Mapping Camera andHyper Spectral Imager (HySI) payloads, found a 1.2 km longburied, uncollapsed and near horizontal lava tube.

The hollow cave situated just above the lunar equator onthe nearside of moon, can accommodate a large number ofastronauts and scientific instruments, and also protect themfrom hostile lunar environment.

"Such a lava tube could be a potential site for futurehuman habitability on the Moon for future human missions andscientific explorations, providing a safe environment fromhazardous radiations, micro-meteoritic impacts, extremetemperatures and dust storms," a team of scientists led by A SArya of SAC, Ahmedabad said reporting the findings in ''CurrentScience''.

Scientists said identifying sites for permanent base forhuman settlements on the moon is important for furtherexploration.

"Lava tubes provide a natural environmental control witha nearly constant temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius,unlike that of the lunar surface showing extreme variation,maximum of 130 degrees Celsius to a minimum of minus 180degrees Celsius in its diurnal (day-night) cycle," they said.

The scientists said the lava tubes offer a dust-freeenvironment and adapting them for human use requires minimalconstruction.

The structures also shields its occupants as after 6meters depth, no effects of radiation due to or induced bygalactic cosmic rays were observed in simulation, they said.

"After less than one meter, no effects of radiation dueto or induced by solar particle events are observable. Naturalor induced radioactivity does not play a significant role inthe lava tube exposures," the scientists said.

"Thus lava tubes are not only a safe natural cavity, butalso a readymade structure for a lunar base, being a habitat,"they said.

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