China has revealed how it plans to use hollow lava channels underground on the moon to offer a natural shield against space radiation and extreme temperatures on it’s new
‘Laurel Tree’ lunar base.
Currently in the design phase, the base will be a huge project for Chinese space architects as the country wants to have its astronauts on the moon for long-term stays after 2035.
The early plans show a moon base carved out of volcanic caves left when the moon still had molton rocks and ancient volcanic eruptions. The tubes are created when lava flows cool and quickly and solidify, as lava continues to be poured leaving hollow elongated shells behind the flow.
These types of tubes are often several kilometres long and tens of metres wide on Earth. They would offer astronauts a natural shelter against space radiation and extreme temperatures on the lunar surface. These types of tunnels have been found all over the moon, and they offer a unique strategy for building bases.
The base has been called the “Laurel Tree”, and would have a pyramid-shaped structure above the ground where the astronauts can enter and exit it.
The underground components would include a core cabin, a working lab and several living spaces for astronauts. A vertical cabin would form the central control centre of the base, and be decked out with all the sophisticated tech you would expect from a moon mission as well as housing the connecting the “doorway” to the crews working and living areas.
The base would use pressurised interiors topped by inflatable arches to allow the astronauts to deploy the base quickly. This type of design would have considerable challenges on Earth, Mars or other planets with an atmosphere but there is no air or wind on the moon. That means these initial inflatable arches would not be blown around before they can be filled with ‘Lunar concrete created from rocks and dust on the moon and additives brought up to the moon by the crew.
The lack of atmosphere does present challenges. Lunar surface temperature swings between 126°C and -173°C throughout the lunar day. The team believe that these tunnels should have a much smaller temperature variation of roughly 17°C to -43°C.
The mission would only see the crew land with the core cabin. The rest would be constructed using on-moon materials or by a system of modular expansion from future missions.
Of course, this is only a provisional plan and China first needs to prove it can reach the moon. The first step will be its lunar mission which it hopes will see Chinese astronauts step foot on the moon in 2030.