It’s no secret that China is trying to get a foothold in the cosmos. The nation’s Martian rover has already proven successful at discovering more about the Red Planet, even if it ultimately ended up dead in its sandy dunes. Now, it seems that an underground Chinese moon base might be on the agenda for the future, which could utilize lava tubes as a starting point.
Lava tubes are present all over the moon. These cave-like tunnels were caused by flowing lava on the moon’s surface. The top of the lava cave formed when the molten rock began to cool, creating an overhang. However, the lava beneath continued to drain, creating a tunnel through the moon’s surface.
We’ve also seen these lava tubes all over Earth, and they’re a common byproduct of lava flowing anywhere. So, how will these lava-made tunnels work for an underground Chinese moon base? Well, because they’re already creating a tunnel, the astronauts building the base could utilize natural resources as a roof, protecting them from the harsh radiation of space.
They’ll also prove very helpful for contending with the temperature swings the lunar surface experiences. Here on Earth, we have a much thicker atmosphere, which helps control the temperature and everything more. But, because the moon’s atmosphere is so thin, it lets in much more Sun radiation. As such, the moon is much warmer when lit up and colder when shrouded in darkness.
Astronauts will also have to contend with the possibility of debris impacts, which have helped give the moon its pockmarked look over the past several million years. If scientists are able to find more sloped lava tubes on the moon’s surface, then they could use them to create an underground moon base that is more protected from this debris.
Of course, the likelihood that China will create an underground base within the next several years is slim. The nation has shared plans to create a moon base by 2028 but doesn’t even have a manned mission set for the lunar surface until the 2030s. On the other hand, NASA’s Artemis III could take astronauts to the lunar surface in as little as the next three to four years.