Japan's lunar orbiter discovers moon cave potentially suitable for use as shelter

Lava tubes "might be the best candidate sites for future lunar bases", Haruyama added, because their structural stability offers protection from the moon's extreme temperatures - which can swing from 224°F during the day to -153°C at night - and cosmic radiation that bombards its surface.

"It's important to know where and how big lunar lava tubes are if we're ever going to construct a lunar base", Haruyama said in a statement.

'But knowing these things is also important for basic science.

Jaxa believes the cave, located beneath an area of volcanic domes known as the Marius Hills on the moon's near side, is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5 billion years ago. They also consulted with NASA scientists who worked on the 2011 NASA Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission - a mission in which a pair of spacecraft orbited the moon to collect data on its gravitational field.

Lava tubes are naturally occurring channels formed when lava flow develops a hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above a still-flowing lava stream.

India win 4-0 against Pakistan in Asia Cup semi final
Two minutes later, Harmanpreet converted a well-taken penalty corner to mark his seventh goal of the tournament. Gurjant completed India's big win in the 57th minute after sweeping home a right cross from Akashdeep Singh.

This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves.

"They knew about the skylight in the Marius Hills, but they didn't have any idea how far that underground cavity might have gone", said Jay Melosh, a GRAIL co-investigator and Distinguished Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University. This would be a first for the country, of which the astronauts are up to now limited to trips to the global space Station (ISS).

"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". The United States, themselves, want to return to the Moon in the framework of a programme of longer term measures aimed to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, with the help of other space agencies.

Russia, too, has said it hopes to start building a human colony - initially for just four people - on the moon by 2030.

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