Unveiling the moon’s secrets: the discovery of underground volcanic tunnels

The discovery of volcanic tunnels on the hidden side of the Moon by the Chinese rover Yutu 2 opens new frontiers for future missions, offering potential natural shelters and crucial resources for exploration and human presence in Space

In the endless silence of space, a fascinating discovery on the moon’s far side ignites our curiosity and imagination. A rover, on a mission to this remote and mysterious corner, has unveiled the existence of underground volcanic tunnels. These natural corridors, formed billions of years ago, not only have the potential to tell ancient stories of our satellite but could also open new possibilities for the future of space exploration.

An international team of scientists, analyzing data transmitted by the Chinese rover Yutu 2, has gained new and valuable insights into the subsurface structure of the moon’s hidden side.

This rover, part of the Chang’e 4 mission that landed on the lunar surface on January 2, 2019, in the 186-kilometer-wide Von Kármán crater, has discovered the presence of volcanic tunnels beneath the lunar surface. These findings, obtained through Yutu 2’s ground-penetrating radar (GPR), pave the way for supporting future human missions on the Moon.

The research, led by Jianqing Feng of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, has identified five main rock layers, with at least three of these predominantly composed of basalt, resulting from basaltic volcanic eruptions that occurred billions of years ago.

These tunnels, formed as a result of such eruptions, provide direct evidence of the moon’s geological history and could offer natural shelters for astronauts, protecting them from radiation and extreme temperature fluctuations.

A Window into the Past

The studies conducted have shown that the rock layers closest to the surface are not as thick as those located deeper. This suggests that lunar volcanic activity has slowed over time, due to the depletion of the internal thermal energy that fueled the volcanoes.

Between January 2019 and January 2022, the period during which data were collected, Yutu 2 traveled about 1,000 meters on the lunar surface, gathering valuable information that enriches our understanding of Earth’s natural satellite.

These discoveries not only shed light on the geological processes that shaped the Moon billions of years ago but also provide crucial data for the planning of future explorations and human settlements. The volcanic tunnels could serve as safe habitats or as storage for resources, reducing the risks and costs associated with human presence on the satellite.

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