Budding space experts are being sought to help map out missions to explore caves on the moon that could one day host human visitors.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is keen to hear from those who think they could design a system capable of supporting such an expedition, which it says could identify areas on the surface that may eventually be suitable places to build bases of operation for astronauts.
Concept art of what such hubs could look like have been shared by the ESA, which says they could allow astronauts to spend extended periods of time on the moon for further study.
Loredana Bessone, who is leading the hunt for ideas, said: “Mission concepts may be based on a single rover or a distributed system of satellite, robotic or rover systems that operate together.
“Either way, we are looking for systems that would land on the lunar surface, identify and access a cave and contribute to the scientific exploration of the moon.”
The ideal home for lunar bases could be the former site of lava tubes, where the molten rock once flowed under the surface of the moon.
Geologists have identified pits that could be related to the collapse of the tubes thanks to images taken with cameras used on several previous satellite missions.
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Franceso Sauro, director of planetary geology astronaut training at the ESA, said: “Exploring and mapping these tubes could provide new information about the moon’s geology, but they could also be an interesting option as long-term shelter for future human visitors to the moon.
“They would shield astronauts from cosmic radiation and micrometeorites and possibly provide access to icy water and other resources trapped underground.”
Proposed concepts for moon bases include a communication line between the cave and the outside world, but the ESA is hoping their appeal will lead to many more potential projects.
Anyone interested has until 26 September to submit their ideas at ideas.esa.int.
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/european-space-agency-seeks-ideas-to-explore-moon-caves-that-could-host-humans-11791863