Caves served as a haven for prehistoric humans. The buildings act as dwellings for the groups and shield them from the environment’s dangerous elements. The identical structures today may offer the same to astronauts on the Moon. There are cave-like buildings on the Moon with temperatures similar to those on Earth.
Scientists have discovered that parts of moon pits consistently display temperatures of around 63 degrees Fahrenheit, or roughly 17 degrees Celsius. For humans, this range can be regarded as steady. The Geophysical Research Letters published the findings in July of this year.
It may be possible for humans to dwell in the pit craters for longer periods, which would make lunar exploration safer than it is now. In addition, installing thermally stable campgrounds is highly possible in the designated regions.
“Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves, we might return when we live on the moon,” said David Paige, a professor of planetary science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Paige is also one of the leaders heading the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment in NASA.
Scientists will think ahead to the conceptualization of permanent operating stations in areas that are safer compared to other lunar regions as a result of the new findings relating to the pits and their thermal stability.
“We could be able to establish a long-term presence on the moon sooner than may have otherwise been possible,” Tyler Horvath said, a doctoral student at UCLA.
Much of the lunar surface experiences extremely volatile conditions, with temperatures reaching up to 127 degrees Celsius during the day and dropping to minus 173 degrees Celsius at night. Unlike these areas, the pits in the Mare Tranquillitatis region are found to have stable temperatures.
The Apollo 11 lunar mission’s landing site was in the Mare Tranquillitatis region. The region was picked because of its level topography.
“These (pits) are right at the resolution limit of the cameras that they’re trying to use,” said Briony Horgan of the atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University.
Horgan added, “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.”
Noah Petro, the head of NASA’s Planetary Geology, Geophysics and Geochemistry Lab, is ecstatic about the find and believes it may provide a window into how other regions of the Moon behave. Currently, the polar regions of the Moon are where NASA’s Artemis program is located for exploration.
“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.”
NASA could now extend the stay on the Moon
The current scientific discovery creates new opportunities for lunar exploration. Prior to now, NASA had a very difficult time building permanent structures on the Moon because of its extremely hot surface. NASA may not need to develop more cutting-edge equipment to resist the allegedly unpredictable temperature conditions on the Moon now that these points of stable conditions have been identified.
“About 16 of the more than 200 pits are probably collapsed lava tubes,” Horvath said.
Lava tunnels beneath the Moon’s surface collapse, creating the caverns. The tubes collapse, forming a pit that eventually allows access to the rest of the cave. Because they are shielded from the heat of the sun and other damaging debris found on the Moon’s surface, the recently formed caves are stable.
“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,” Petro said.
“But we can also learn about how different types of surface material respond to the changing lighting conditions at the lunar surface.”