Lava tunnels were discovered on the Moon in 2017 by Purdue University researchers. It is believed that these tubes could offer shelter for astronauts and future Moon colonists from the inhospitable conditions on the lunar surface. 3D reconstructions could be used to analyze the viability of such an endeavor. It is protecting astronauts on the many research missions on the Moon that are scheduled for the next decade and beyond.
The utility of Moon lava tunnels
This is part of an ongoing project from Purdue University to come up with new ways to provide viable habitats for humans that are visiting the Moon and Mars. The research team is currently exploring the option of using these lava tubes to protect against radiation, extreme temperatures, seismic activity, and meteorite crashes.
Postdoctoral researcher from Purdue University, Anahita Modiriasari, explains the process behind the lava tubes: “Lava tubes form when a volcanic eruption sends lava flowing in channels on the ground. The surface of the lava flow cools and forms a crust on top, while the hot lava keeps flowing underneath, forming a tunnel. We know these lava tubes exist on the moon, as satellite imagery has shown openings on the lunar surface, sometimes called ‘skylights.’”
The next move the research team has planned is to explore the lava tunnels on Earth as this is the next best solution, barring a human-crewed mission on the Moon. Their goals are to asses the chemical structure on the tunnels and to asses their structural integrity.
An index will be made to help the next exploratory rovers that will visit the Moon. The machines will have the information they need to explore the lava tunnels and send back their data to the ground team. Thousands of photos will also be taken by the rover that will help create a 3D map for researchers to study.
The research that Purdue University is currently conducting aligns with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission where US astronauts made the history when they became the first people to land on the Moon.
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