On the heels of what has become known as the Asian Space Race, a new and exciting study might have moved us a small step toward colonizing other worlds. According to the study presented at the Planetary Science Conference, lava tubes big enough to house large human populations, such as whole cities, may exist on the moon.
A lava tube is a natural formation created when the edges of lava cool while the rest of the lava flows through it creating a conduit or pipe-like tube. These formations are important to scientists researching space explorations because they are able to protect organic life from the dangers of space like radiation and extreme temperature changes.
A distinguished professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue, Jay Melash, in a press statement has said that sinuous rilles on the moon is evidence that these lava tubes might exist there.
Sinuous rilles are long grooves in the surface of the moon thought to be created by lava tubes or lava flow. The origins of the sinuous rilles are still controversial. Other areas the may contain lunar lava tubes are the Marius Hills region, the Hadley Rille, and the Mare Serenitatis. Scientists believe that the Hadley Rille may have been partially roofed, but sections have since collapsed.
This could be good news with NASA’s current plan to get astronauts to the moon, once again, by the end of the next decade and with the resolve of several Asian nations to get manned spacecrafts into space. Collecting rocks and leaving flags may not be the main goals for international astronauts on the surface of the moon. With the release of this new study, searching for and testing possible habitable locations may very well be the new main goal.
The Purdue team led by David Blair, a graduate student in Purdue’s department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, found that if lunar lava tubes existed with a strong arch shape like the lava tubes on Earth, they would be stable up to 5,000 meters (or just over three miles) on the moon. Blair has also stated that due to a lower gravity, lava tubes that are too big to be stable on earth would be stable on the surface of the moon.
All scientists agree, the earth is creeping toward an inevitable end. It may be as much as five billion years away, but if humans still populate the planet, they will need places ready to flee. It is the hopes of scientists all over the world to find suitable homes across the depths of space before that disaster strikes.