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Pressurized Natural Caverns Could Offer Homes on the Moon

TechSciencePressurized Natural Caverns Could Offer Homes on the Moon
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Ifantasy a livable Colonies on Mars or the Moon and the types of structures that come to mind are probably shiny domes or shiny metal tubes rolling across the surface. But with no Earth-like atmosphere or magnetic field to repel solar radiation and microscopic meteorites, space colonists would probably need to pile metre-thick rocks and geological debris on the roofs of such off-world settlements. more like hobbit hole moonbase alpha,

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However, there may be another solution, which would provide future colonists with a safer and more spacious living space than any cramped base built on the surface. i am writing Acta AstronauticaRaymond Martin, an engineer at Blue Origin, a rocket company, and Heim Benaroya, an aerospace engineer at Rutgers University, explore the benefits of setting up a moon base inside giant geological tunnels that lie just below the lunar surface.

First discovered during the Apollo program, these lunar lava tubes are a legacy of a time when Earth’s closest celestial neighbor was geologically hyperactive, with streams of boiling basaltic magma flowing from the interior as lava onto the Moon’s surface Was Found on Earth (see picture), and identified on Mars, lava tubes are formed when the sluggish top layer of a lava stream slows and cools, forming a thick and rocky cover that is left behind when the rest of the lava eventually flows out.

Lava tubes on Earth are typically up to 15 meters wide and can run for several kilometres. But the low gravity on the Moon makes them hundreds of times larger, creating vast cave systems that are as small as a kilometer and hundreds of kilometers long.

Space scientists have long identified these lava caves as potential sites for human habitation on the Moon, as the thick walls and ceilings provide protection from the harsh radiation on the lunar surface. But Mr. Martin and Dr. Banaroya went a step further. Instead of settling the Moon’s base inside a lava tube—domes and shiny buildings and all, he suggested that a section of such a tube could be pressurized with breathable air. Residents could live, work and sleep inside the pressurized tubes, without the need for space suits and with plenty of real estate for some low-gravity entertainment. And although the cost and details require more planning, it may be cheaper than shipping everything needed to survive on the lunar surface from Earth.

In their latest study, the two scientists crunched some numbers on what might be possible. “One of the first big hurdles is proving that they [the lava tubes] are structurally strong,” says Mr. Martin. To find out, he and Dr. Benaroya built a computer model to simulate the integrity of a relatively small lava tube in the Moon’s Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms) , which was drawn by the Indian. Chandrayaan-1 Lunar probe 15 years ago.

After checking several combinations of internal pressure and roof thickness, and whether or not the resulting structure was stable, the study suggested that a lava tube with a roof thickness of ten meters would have been exposed to conditions roughly similar to those found on the ocean floor on Earth. can be safely pressurized. The scientists also showed that the overall pressure (and therefore the risk of roof failure) could be reduced by increasing the proportion of oxygen in the artificial air used to fill the caves. And given the awkwardness of moving around in space suits, the study looked at how astronauts can get themselves and their equipment safely in and out of the tubes. The best option, it was concluded, would be to build the entrance where a wall of the lava tube had naturally split open.

Knowing that the ceiling would not collapse should give engineers the confidence to work on other aspects of the idea, such as how to use inflatable structures to cap the ends of the pressurized section of tube. Such membranes are already used for flood prevention in tunnels on Earth, where they can be quickly deployed to stop incoming floodwaters. Another issue is whether the lava tube’s roof will be completely airtight, and if not, how to seal it to prevent leakage. And of course, how to prepare humanity for a return to life in caves.

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