Scientists have speculated that areas on the moon, called lava tubes, may be the perfect location for future lunar colonies. American and Japanese scientists, combining data from the Selene orbiter and the Grail probe, have located one of those lava tubes in the Marius Hills region of the moon. Moreover, they have been able to ascertain that it is large enough, potentially, to contain a Lunar Colony with room to spare.

What are lava tubes?

Lava tubes result from the flow of lava that forms channels. When the lava drains they form hollow voids under the surface. Earth has lava tubes, but the ones on the moon tend to be much larger.

How was the Marius Hills lava tube found?

Selene, the Japanese probe that orbited the moon between 2007 and 2009, used radar to examine its geologic history. The radar instrument just happened to be useful for revealing the location of lava tubes. Around a skylight formation in the Marius Hills region, Selene's radar data indicated the existence of a Lava Tube extending from the skylight.

The data from Selene was combined with that from the NASA Grail probe, designed to detect mass deficits and thus a reduction in lunar gravity. Grail detected such gaps in the location where Selene indicated a lava tube. Scientists were able to ascertain that the Marius Hills lava tube extends many kilometers and appears to be stable.

Why are underground formations important?

The moon is a tough place to live for any length of time.

The lunar surface is bombarded with radiation, solar flares, meteors, and extremes of heat and cold as it orbits around the Earth. Future, prospective, lunar colonists would be shielded from all of these phenomena in order to survive for any appreciable length of time.

Lava tubes provide the perfect location for siting a lunar colony. The tubes contain enough space to locate all the infrastructure that is needed and provide enough shielding to protect the colonists from the hazards the moon represents.

The Marius Hills lava tube has one singular disadvantage in that it is located a considerable distance from the moon’s poles where ice is found in shadowed regions of deep impact craters. However, no reason exists that lava tubes cannot be located closer to those deposits of ice that can be used to sustain a lunar colony.

The location and measurement of the Marius Hills lava tube have taken on a particular importance considering President Trump’s initiative to return to the moon. The proposed mission statement of a back to the moon effort, arrive, survive, thrive, could be accomplished under the lunar surface.