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We May Have Just Discovered the Perfect Place to Build a Lunar Colony

In October 2017, the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, announced their discovery of a 50-kilometer-wide underground lava tube on the Moon. JAXA fired radar into a “skylight” on the Moon’s surface, using The Lunar Radar Sounder onboard Japan’s SELENE/Kaguya orbiter. JAXA astronomers determined that the skylight and other large, non-craterous holes on the lunar surface were entrances to large underground chambers.

We May Have Just Discovered the Perfect Place to Build a Lunar Colony
Oblique view of eastern Marius Hills and Marius crater (upper right) by Lunar Orbiter 2. (Lunar and Planetary Institute, Lunar Orbiter Photo Gallery Lunar Orbiter 2, image 213, med [1])

The United States and Russia are teaming up to construct the Deep Space Gateway, which is a stepping stone to establishing a human colony on the Moon; Apollo 17 in 1972 sent the last people to the Moon. Establishing a settlement on the lunar surface is a vastly more complicated task than a three-day stay in a lander. The Moon lacks both an atmosphere and a magnetic field, and its surface is completely exposed to high energy cosmic rays, radiation from the Sun, and the vacuum of space. Its surface temperatures are extreme, swinging between minus 100 at night and 173 degrees Celsius during the day, and a day on the Moon lasts 28 Earth days.

Humans cannot survive on the Moon without some serious protection—if we are to return and establish permanent residence up there, we need a safe place to stay.

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