Photos of the Moon taken by India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter reveal the presence of a large cave that could serve as a settlement site for future manned missions, according to new findings from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Scientists at ISRO’s Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad found the suspected cave by analyzing data from Chandrayaan-1’s Terrain Mapping Camera, and an Indian instrument built to provide 3-D views of the lunar surface.
Stereoscope imagery suggests the cave, uncollapsed remains of an ancient lava tube, is located 160 meters below the lunar surface and measures 2 kilometers long by 360 meters wide.
“This furnishes a safe and substantial dwelling site for human settlements in future missions,” ISRO scientist A.S. Arya and his colleagues report in their paper.
The volcanic tube is located in OceanusProcellarum, a vast basaltic plain visited in the 1960s by several Russian and U.S. robotic probes, and NASA’s manned Apollo 12 mission.
The findings, previewed Feb. 8 at an ISRO meeting in Ahmedabad, are to be formally presented at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas the first week of March.