Scientists find 'safe chamber' for astronauts

Mission moon

 Located above the lunar equator on the nearside of moon, the 1.72 km long and 360 mt wide “hollow cave” can not only accommodate a large number of astronauts and scientific instruments, but also protect them from hostile lunar environment.

The discovery has been made by Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-1 that was launched in October 2008. Analysis of the three-dimensional images reveals the presence of the large underground tunnel between two ridges, which are basically dried up beds of molten lava.

The chamber (a dry lava tube) is located in between two inter-connected ridges with opening on one side from where astronauts can enter. “A lava-tube could be a potential site for future human habitability on the moon for future human missions and scientific explorations, providing a safe environment from hazardous radiations, micro-meteoritic impacts and extreme temperature,” scientists from ISRO’s Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad reported in the journal Current Science.

Scientists said identifying sites for permanent base for human settlements on the moon is important for further exploration.

“For future space travel, moon is the nearest point. If water is found, then it can be split to generate hydrogen as rocket fuel. The lava tube provides a natural roof to a settlement,” A S Kiran Kumar, one of the SAC scientists associated with the study told Deccan Herald.

The chamber is free from cosmic and solar radiations as well as from dust, thanks to its roof, whose thickness varies between 45 and 90 mt. The roof also makes it a place sturdy enough to withstand meteorite impacts. The chamber will also provide an environment with a constant temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius unlike that of the lunar surface showing extreme variation ranging from 130 degrees Celsius to minus 180 degrees in the lunar day-night cycle.

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