Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


Lunar caves would provide a temperate, stable, and safe thermal environment for long term exploration and habitation of the Moon.

Indeed, people could potentially live and work in lunar pits and caves with steady temperatures in the 60s. 


That’s the bottom line from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Tyler Horvath, a UCLA doctoral student in planetary science, led the new research recently published in the American Geophysical Union’s Geophysical Research Letters. The research team also included UCLA professor of planetary science David Paige and Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Credit: NASA

Desirable habitat

“For long term colonization and exploration of the Moon, pits may provide a desirable habitat: they are largely free from the constant threats of harmful radiation, impacts, and extreme temperatures,” states the paper. “Thus, pits and caves may offer greater mission safety than other potential base station locales, providing a valuable stepping stone for sustaining human life beyond Earth.”

Since the discovery of pits on the Moon by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) SELENE spacecraft in 2009, there has been interest in whether they provide access to caves that could be explored by rovers and astronauts.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

Prominent pit

Using data from the Diviner instrument aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been continuously measuring the temperature of the lunar surface for over 11 years, the researchers methodically characterized the environment of one prominent pit located in Mare Tranquillitatis.

The Mare Tranquillitatis pit and (b) the Mare Ingenii pit.
Credit: Tyler Horvath, Paul O. Hayne, David A. Paige

The pit’s thermal environment is more hospitable compared to anywhere else on the Moon, with temperatures varying minimally around a comfortable 17°C (or 63° F) wherever the Sun does not shine directly, explains the research paper.

“Humans evolved living in caves, and to caves we might return when we live on the Moon,” said Paige in a UCLA press statement. Paige leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment.

Horvath and Paige are science team members for a new lunar-bound thermal camera led by Paul Hayne named the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS) which will head to the lunar south pole in late 2023 to get the first ground-based thermal images.

To read the full paper – “Thermal and Illumination Environments of Lunar Pits and Caves: Models and Observations From the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment” – go to:

One Response to “Moon Pits and Caves: Comfy Habitats for Human Explorers?”

  • Mike Borgelt says:

    Well, that seems to be the answer to the average temperature of at least that part of the Moon. It doesn’t have an atmosphere either.
    Interesting comparison with the average temperature of Earth at the surface which has an average temperature of 15 deg C and does have an atmosphere. Tell me about the Greenhouse effect again?

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