Russians see room for moonbase in lunar lava caves

STAR CITY, Russia Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:55pm EDT

Russian cosmonaut Sergey Krikalyov speaks during a news conference in the Star City Cosmonaut training centre outside Moscow, March 3, 2010.  REUTERS/Sergei Remezov

Russian cosmonaut Sergey Krikalyov speaks during a news conference in the Star City Cosmonaut training centre outside Moscow, March 3, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Remezov

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STAR CITY, Russia (Reuters) - The United States may have put the first man on the moon, but Russian scientists and space explorers are now gazing at a new goal -- setting up a colony on the moon.

The discovery of volcanic tunnels on the moon could provide a natural shelter for the first lunar colony, cosmonauts and scientists said on Tuesday.

Researchers have long suspected the moon's volcanic past left an underground network of lava tubes as its legacy, and 2008 images from Japan's Kaguya spacecraft showed a possible way down -- a mysterious, meters-deep hole breaching the surface.

"This new discovery that the moon may be a rather porous body could significantly alter our approach to founding lunar bases," veteran spaceman Sergei Krikalyov, who heads Russia's Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow, said at a forum on the future of manned spaceflight.

"If it turns out that the moon has a number of caves that can provide some protection from radiation and meteor showers, it could be an even more interesting destination than previously thought," he said.

A slide-show image showing bunker-like inflatable tents dotting the lunar landscape helped forum participants imagine the lunar bases.

"There wouldn't be any need to dig the lunar soil and build walls and ceilings," said Krikalyov.

"It would be enough to use an inflatable module with a hard outer shell to -- roughly speaking -- seal the caves."

The first such lunar colonies could be built by 2030, estimated Boris Kryuchkov, the deputy science head at the training center.

As the world's space agencies debate where to fly beyond low-Earth orbit, including deep space missions to asteroids and Mars, the European Space Agency's (ESA) head of human spaceflight programs said the moon also looked attractive.

"In ESA, there is still a very strong focus on the moon. It could be a natural first to go there," Martin Zell told Reuters.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Comments (6)
ponder68 wrote:
This is nice, but who is going to pay for it? The United States got snookered into financing most of the Russian Federation’s contribution to the ISS and is paying them now to ferry US astronauts. Do they expect the United States to subsidize this adventure as well?

Still, the irony that ESA and others are looking to go back to the Moon while United States shelved that idea is not lost…or is it.

Oct 18, 2011 6:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
So…we go to the moon to live in caves. Machines proved a much more economic and better research mechanisms than supporting mankind on the moon !

Oct 19, 2011 9:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
@Ponder68, So what if the USA subsidizes it? We should then we can reap the benefits of the many technological advancements that would come of missions like this. Not to mention how this satisfies the basal human instinct of exploration/colonization of new areas.

@Morbas, The technological advances that would come from promoting missions like this would be immense. not to mention the Science, e.g. a radio telescope on dark side of the moon would be amazing.

We could do this for less then 1/10th of what we spent on TARP, and what did we get from that, besides letting Wall Street bankers keep their excessive pay rates? Well actually some TARP funds where used to bailout GM and Chrysler so it did do some good for the average American.

Oct 19, 2011 3:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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