Photo Credit: NASA
Prehistoric people found refuge in caves. The structures protect them from the harmful elements of the environment and serve as dwellings for the groups. Today, the same structure could offer the same to astronauts on the Moon. Temperatures in cavernous structures on the Moon are very similar to those on Earth.
According to the scientists’ findings, there are areas in the lunar pits where temperatures are consistently around 63 degrees Fahrenheit or about 17 degrees Celsius. This is a range that can be considered stable for humans. The results were published in Geophysical Research Letters last July.
The pit craters may provide astronauts with a place to stay for longer periods of time, making lunar exploration safer than it is now. The terrain is suitable for scientists to establish thermally stable camps.
David Paige, a professor of planetary sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves, we might return when we live on the moon.” Paige is also one of the leaders of the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment at NASA.
New discoveries about crater conditions and their thermal stability could lead scientists to the concept of permanent workstations in safer locations compared to other regions of the Moon.
“We could be able to establish a long-term presence on the moon sooner than may have otherwise been possible,” said Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in the planetary science department at UCLA.
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The Moon’s surface is extremely volatile, with temperatures reaching as high as 127 degrees Celsius during the day and dropping to negative 173 degrees Celsius at night. In contrast to these areas, the pits in the Mare Tranquillitatis region have consistent and stable temperatures.
The first human lunar mission, Apollo 11, landed in the Mare Tranquillitatis region. The location was chosen due to its flat terrain.
Briony Horgan from Purdue University’s atmospheric and planetary sciences department said, “These (pits) are right at the resolution limit of the cameras that they’re trying to use.”
“The fact that they are able to pull that data out and show that it was pretty convincing, I think it’s a big step forward in looking at the moon,” he added.
Noah Petro, director of NASA’s Laboratory of Planetary Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry, is pleased with the discovery and says it will be an excellent starting point for understanding the behavior of other regions on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis program is currently exploring the polar regions of the Moon.
“Artemis has the goal of sending humans to the region around the South Pole, where we know there are some very cold places,” Petro said. “Fortunately, we have a large amount of data for the south pole region where Artemis will visit.”
Long-term stay on the Moon possible
The current scientific discovery creates new opportunities for lunar exploration. Previously, NASA had difficulty building permanent facilities on the Moon due to the surface’s enormously high temperatures. NASA may not need to develop more advanced equipment to withstand the Moon’s alleged variable temperature conditions now that these locations with stable conditions have been identified.
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Horvath added, “About 16 of the more than 200 pits are probably collapsed lava tubes.”
The caves form due to collapsing lava tubes beneath the Moon’s surface. The collapsed pipes create a pit and eventually open up the rest of the cave. The newly created caves are stable because they are protected from the sun’s heat and other damaging debris on the Moon’s surface.
Petro said, “Continuing to map the temperature of the lunar surface is a high priority for LRO, as we’ll be able to use that information not only to better understand the environment future missions to the surface will experience.”
“But we can also learn about how different types of surface material respond to the changing lighting conditions at the lunar surface.”