A future colony on the moon might seem unlikely but we are one step closer today after scientists have confirmed that the crater-like features on the moon's surface may be entrances to giant caverns and these holes could be the perfect place to live. Researchers long held ideas that the craters may have been created from lava and this theory has finally been confirmed with new data sourced from a collaboration between Japan and the United States research teams.
Lunar Caverns could serve as human shelters
The research has identified these caverns near the Marius Hill region of the Moon and suggests that they could provide a safe environment for a future colony. The paper published inGeophysical Research Letters says the area offers, a “pristine environment to conduct scientific examination of the Moon’s composition and potentially serve as secure shelters for humans and instruments.”
The NASA and JAXA scientists used a combination of radar and gravity data to confirm the finding. Millions of years ago the moon experienced significant volcanic events that caused lava to carve channels across its surface. When these channels drain they sometimes left a hollow channel behind and these are the areas being investigated by the scientists today.
SELENE spacecraft has been investigating the moon for sometime
Japanese scientists from JAXA have been investigating the moon for some time now using the the SELENE spacecraft. The spacecraft is specifically designed to investigate the history of the moon and to cast further light on the moon's geology. The spacecraft can locate the hollow caverns by bouncing radar off the surface. Once a crater is identified the spacecraft shoots multiple radar bursts at the area. Listening to the radar echo of these areas led scientist to confirm that they were hollow and be able to estimate the rough size and layout of the caverns. This research was correlated further by overlaying this knowledge with NASA generated data. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) has been analyzing the surface of the moon and located several occasions where the moon's mass seems to reduced or missing. These areas overlapped perfectly with the JAXA data confirming the theories of both agencies. The research opens the possibility of a possible future Moon Mission, though neither agency has confirmed their plans to do so.
Google to fund the next Moon Mission
In the absence of a government-funded moon expedition, Google has stepped up with its Lunar XPRIZE. The international competition was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007, offering more than US$30 million in prizes to a team that can land a robot on the Moon and travel more than 500 meters and transmits back high-definition images and video. Additional prizes are offered for extra tasks that the teams/s can complete such as collecting rocks samples, photographing evidence of Apollo or bring back proof of potential water sources. There are currently several teams still in the running for the prize, they have until mid next year to complete their missions.