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Could the man in the moon give humans a lunar base?
|【Published time:2015/2/12】 【Read the number:400】|
|The man in the moon may hold the key to living on the lunar surface, Nasa has said.
It has studied the large lunar pits on the moon's surface, which led to the popular belief the moon has a 'face'.
It says they could provide future astronauts with shelter from the radiation, dust and temperature swings on the moon's surface.
These images from NASA's LRO spacecraft show all of the known mare pits and highland pits. Each image is 222 meters (about 728 feet) wide - meaning the pits cold be big enough to contain a human shelter.
While the moon's surface is battered by millions of craters, it also has over 200 holes – steep-walled pits that in some cases might lead to caves that future astronauts could explore and use for shelter, according to new observations from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
The pits range in size from about 5 meters (~5 yards) across to more than 900 meters (~984 yards) in diameter, and three of them were first identified using images from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft.
Hundreds more were found using a new computer algorithm that automatically scanned thousands of high-resolution images of the lunar surface from LRO's Narrow Angle Camera (NAC).
Image of lunar pit from LRO spacecraft
'Pits would be useful in a support role for human activity on the lunar surface,' said Robert Wagner of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.
'A habitat placed in a pit, ideally several dozen meters back under an overhang, would provide a very safe location for astronauts: no radiation, no micrometeorites, possibly very little dust, and no wild day-night temperature swings.
The Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater revealing boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. This image from LRO's NAC is 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide, north is up.
Most pits were found either in large craters with impact melt ponds – areas of lava that formed from the heat of the impact and later solidified, or in the lunar maria – dark areas on the moon that are extensive solidified lava flows hundreds of miles across.
The pits could form when the roof of a void or cave collapses, perhaps from the vibrations generated by a nearby meteorite impact, according to Wagner.
However, he noted that from their appearance in the LRO photos alone, there is little evidence to point to any particular cause.
The voids could be created when molten rock flowed under the lunar surface; on Earth, lava tubes form when magma flows beneath a solidified crust and later drains away.
The same process could happen on the moon, especially in a large impact crater, the interior of which can take hundreds of thousands of years to cool, according to Wagner.
'The ideal follow-up, of course, would be to drop probes into one or two of these pits, and get a really good look at what's down there,' adds Wagner.
'Pits, by their nature, cannot be explored very well from orbit -- the lower walls and any floor-level caves simply cannot be seen from a good angle.
'Even a few pictures from ground-level would answer a lot of the outstanding questions about the nature of the voids that the pits collapsed into.
'We're currently in the very early design phases of a mission concept to do exactly this, exploring one of the largest mare pits."