Science | October 19, 2017 11:26 am

Discovery of Moon Cave Could Mean Hope for Human Colonization

Japan says a lunar chasm could be used as a base for astronauts and equipment.

Japan’s space agency claims to have found an enormous cave beneath the moon’s surface, reports The Guardianand they think it could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts.

Many countries are vying to send manned missions to the moon. Japan’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe used a radar sounder system that can examine underground structures to find the cave, according to The Guardian. They originally found an opening 50 meters wide and 50 meters deep, which made them think there might be a larger hollow. Then this week, The Guardian reports, scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of the cave, which runs 50 km (31 miles) long and 100 meters wide.

According to The Guardian, the cave seems to be structurally sound. Data sent back by the orbiter appears to show the rocks that make up the cave contain ice or water deposits which could be turned into fuel.

Jaxa believes the cave is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago. Lava tubes might be the best candidate for future lunar bases, said Junichi Haruyama, a senior researcher at Jaxa, according to The Guardian, “because of their stable thermal conditions and potential to protect people and instruments from micrometeorites and cosmic ray radiation.”

The agency says the chamber could be used as a base for astronauts and their equipment since they would be protected from extreme temperatures and radiation, and Haruyama has high hopes for what exploring the cave will show.

This discovery will probably ramp up plans by several countries to send astronauts to the moon, reports The Guardian. Japan recently announced that it wants an astronaut on the moon for the first time by 2030, and China has said it wants to conduct its first manned mission to the moon around 2036 as part of its lunar and Mars exploration programs, according to The Guardian. China and Russia have both said they hope to start building human colonies on the moon.