According to a NASA geoscientist, astronauts could eventually live inside of caves underneath the surface of the moon. Daniel Moriarty and several of his colleagues answered questions during a Reddit ‘ask me anything’ session which they did on May 16, 2019. During that session, he claimed that the natural shelters on the moon that were created by lunar lava would be a great place where humans could build a lunar base.
The long tunnel-like structures were created from past volcanic activity where the lava flow eventually cooled and hardened up. The hard crust was positioned above the molten rock which was moving underneath it, and when it finally depleted, a hollow tunnel remained.
The caves would shield the astronauts against the damaging solar radiation as well as the fluctuating temperatures on the moon. Since NASA is planning on sending astronauts back to the moon in 2024, the majority of the Q&A session was focused on that which can be read here.
As for the possibility of future moon bases, Dr. Moriarty wrote, “I don’t think we’re going to be able to change anything about the surface of the moon much,” adding, “It could be interesting to set up shop within a pre-existing lava tube.”
He also mentioned that setting up a base near the lunar poles could be beneficial. “For instance, it could be useful to establish a base near a permanently-shadowed polar region in order to take advantage of surface water that’s there,” he explained. In fact, China National Space Administration announced in April that they plan to create an international base that would be located close to the south pole of the moon where there is much ice.
NASA also plans to use “innovative, new technologies” to explore more of the moon. “We will use what we learn as we move forward to the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
Initially, humans were only supposed to go back to the moon in 2028 according to Bridenstine who made the announcement in March of this year. However, plans were changed when Vice President Mike Pence said that humans would be back on the moon by 2024 which is four years earlier than the original plan. In fact, he looked to NASA to “reignite the spark of urgency” for the exploration of space.
Whether astronauts get to the moon in 2024 or slightly later, it would be the seventh manned US lunar expedition – quite a bit later than the first six expeditions that were conducted between 1969 and 1972. This upcoming expedition, named the Artemis mission, will be even more special, as it will be the first time that a woman will walk on the moon. They also hope to be the first crewed mission to land close to the lunar’s South Pole.