Japan says lunar chasm measuring 50km long and 100 metres wide could be used as a base for astronauts and their equipment.
This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves. The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale.
The agency said the chamber could be used as a base for astronauts and their equipment, because it would protect them from extreme temperatures – ranging from an average of 107C during the day to -153C at night – and radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The discovery will boost plans by several countries to send astronauts to the moon almost half a century after the Apollo 11 mission.
Jaxa recently announced that it aimed to put a Japanese astronaut on the moon for the first time by around 2030, most likely as part of an international mission.
China has said it wants to conduct its first manned mission to the moon in around 2036 as part of its ambitious lunar and Mars exploration programmes. “Our long-term goal is to explore, land, and settle,” Wu Weiren, the chief designer of China’s moon and Mars missions, told the BBC. “We want a manned lunar landing to stay for longer periods and establish a research base.”
Russia, too, has said it hopes to start building a human colony – initially for just four people – on the moon by 2030.