There have not been many studies done in the past on lunar lava tubes. There is much knowledge and insight that space scientists hope to gain by performing a new study to understand these unique structures, which can sometimes be enormous.
Studying Lunar Lava Tubes
A new study on lunar lava tubes, as seen on Exploration Architecture, has been conducted by Purdue University to help better understand these amazing lunar lava tubes: They are created when there is a volcanic eruption and the lava flows out onto the moon’s surface. Once the lava flow has subsided and has dried up, the tubes that are left behind can be anywhere from somewhat small to extremely large. Some of these are so big that they can easily house a city.
The reason that these lunar lava tubes can be so large is because of the reduced gravity. Here on Earth, there are lava tubes but our Earth’s gravity and other environmental factors, such as erosion, don’t allow for them to become this big. The moon, however, is another story. The lunar lava tubes can quickly become giants on the planet and have a significant impact on overall lunar geology.
Formation of Lunar Lava Tubes
When the lunar lava tubes are formed, they undergo a certain process to get to the enormous size mentioned earlier. As previously mentioned, the basic process is the lave flows onto the moon’s surface and then leaves behind lunar lava tubes in its wake. The more detailed explanation of this is that there are many underground volcanoes under the surface of the moon. The belief was that these volcanoes had been inactive for millions of years but they have recently been active in the last million years or so. The volcanoes eruption causes lava flow to run out onto the moon’s surface.
Once a volcano erupts and the lava begins to cool, it hardens and the destruction that it causes to the moon’s surface leaves the lava tubes. These lunar lava tubes are basically the tracks left by the trail of lava. The reason that some are so large is when there are greater amounts of lava, there are greater amounts of destruction. There is concrete evidence of these lunar tubes through the photos taken by Apollo 10, showing hundreds of them across the surface of the moon.
Effects of Lunar Studies on Space Science
These interesting lunar lava tubes are a gateway into the future studies of space science, and specifically the more detailed study of our moon. The sinuous rilles that appear along with the lunar lava tubes, seen at Oregon University, are also a great way to understand the way that lunar volcano eruptions occur and what marks they leave behind. David Blair is the graduate from Purdue University who led this most recent study, and along with his other colleagues they believe that there is ground-breaking research to be had on the moon through this new line of study.
There has only been one other study done on lunar lava tubes, and that was back in 1968. There is much to learn and much that we can then apply to other planet’s geology. Understanding the moon’s geology could very well be the key to successful human space exploration in the future.
These explorers trekked up and down a volcano in Pucón, Chile — Villarrica Volcano: