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ISRO scientists discover lava tube on moon news
25 February 2011

ISRO scientists have discovered a giant underground cave on the moon, which, according to them could serve as a base for astronauts during future manned missions to earth's lone natural satellite.

The discovery was made on examination of images captured by the Terrain Mapping Camera (TMC), one of the 11 cameras on board the space agency's maiden moon mission, Chandrayaan 1.

According to an article authored by  A S Arya and four other scientists from the Space Applications Centre titled,  ''Detection of potential site for future human habitability on the moon using Chandrayaan-1 data'' in the latest issue of Current Science, ''a buried, uncollapsed, and near horizontal lava tube was detected in TMC stereo images of the Oceanus Procellarum area, on the moon''. The area is smaller than the Mediterranean Sea, and lies on the side of the moon visible from earth.

The authors say the particular lava tube is located slightly north of the lunar equator. The authors say, lava tubes are not unique to the moon, citing studies on volcanic fields such as those on Hawaii, that reveal most lava tubes ''remain partially void''.

The paper says, the lava tube also provides ''a natural environmental control with a nearly constant temperature of -20C, unlike that of the lunar surface that experiences extreme variation swinging from a maximum of 130C to a minimum of 180C in its diurnal cycle.''

Given the hostile environment on the moon, that lacks an atmosphere, human settlement there is almost impossible. Also its intrinsic magnetic field makes the moon vulnerable to meteorites, energetic particles and radiations.

According to experts the lava tube could be itself of scientific interest and provide important clues to the history of volcanism and the moon's thermal history.

The paper was authored by AS Arya, RP Rajasekhar, Guneshwar Thangjam, Ajai and AS Kiran Kumar of the Space Applications Centre.

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ISRO scientists discover lava tube on moon