Daily Illuminator

March 24, 2011: Space In Space

Dreams of hanging out on the moon have been around as long as science fiction; what was possibly the first SF story (published in 1634!) focused on just such a trip. Building a permanent installation is the next step, of course, and once we're out of Earth's gravity well, that's relatively easy

And with a recent discovery by India's Chandrayaan-1 probe, that moon base looks easier than we thought. See, without an atmosphere, burying the facility is the best way to protect it against radiation and meteor strikes. Digging in the lunar regolith isn't difficult compared to some places on Earth -- try digging a well in the rocky Texas soil, for instance -- but an excavation that size would represent a sizable tonnage of dirt movers that would need to be strapped on the top of a rocket. It wouldn't be cheap.

But ISRO's analysis points to a 77-square-mile cave near the Moon's equator. That's bigger than Galveston Island, which houses around 58,000 residents. The construction team would just need to land, drill an entrance hole, and inflate a heavy-duty balloon. Bingo! Instant camping ground for 21st-century pioneers.

(I accidentally switched a "meter" for a "kilometer" in my calculations. The cave is actually only 0.07-square-miles, or about 2 million square feet . . . which is three times the size of the San Diego Convention Center. Sorry! -pkc)

Fighting off the Nazis that have been hiding there since 1950 is optional . . . unless Kenneth Hite is writing the plot, of course.

-- Paul Chapman

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