Moon and Jupiter

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Moon and Jupiter

If people ever build long-term settlements on the Moon, they’ll need a lot of protection from the elements. High on the list of hazards are radiation from the Sun and other sources, and bombardment by small but speedy space rocks. One possible solution is to cover habitats with a thick layer of lunar dirt. Another is to set up camp underground — in lunar caves.

Scientists have found several “pits” in the surface that could be entrances to caves. The one that’s been studied the most is in the Marius Hills, a region in a giant volcanic plain known as the Ocean of Storms. The pit appears to be as wide as a football field, and perhaps deep enough to hold the Empire State Building. It could be an entrance to an empty lava tube that could stretch a long way — plenty of room for living and working.

Scientists have drafted plans for possible robotic missions to explore the pit. One would lower a probe with a crane. Another would fire a “harpoon” into the wall of the pit and lower a probe on a zip line. And still another would lower a ball-shaped probe to roll through the cave — and tell us if it might be a good home for lunar explorers.

The Ocean of Storms is a large dark patch on the upper left quadrant of the lunar disk this evening. And a bright companion stands quite near the Moon, off that same quadrant: the planet Jupiter. It looks like a brilliant star — the second-brightest object in the night sky after the Moon.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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