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ANTHELIA - ANalysis of illumination and THermal Environment of Lunar pIts and lavA tubes

Presentation #119.04 in the session Moon & Earth (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
ANTHELIA - ANalysis of illumination and THermal Environment of Lunar pIts and lavA tubes

The forthcoming space exploration shows that a human return to the Moon is pivotal to improve our knowledge of the geological processes that operate on the rocky bodies of the Solar System, including the volcanism. Several surface features testify the past volcanic activity, including the inferred presence of lava tubes. Lunar lava tubes are considered possible candidates for future human exploration. Indeed, if accessible, the interior of an empty tube could provide astronauts the necessary shelter against meteoroid impacts, cosmic radiation, as well as extreme temperature variations. Hence, the estimation of illumination conditions and surface radiative intensity on airless bodies becomes essential. The possibility to access such voids with exploration robotic devices and subsequently astronauts needs to be investigated in terms of temperature variations, to verify which are the best conditions that could offer a thermally stable environment. Indeed, constant temperatures offer favorable environmental conditions both for human and industrial operations [1]. In this research project, we will characterize the complex illumination and thermal conditions within lunar pits and lava tubes to (I) improve our understanding of lunar cave thermal behavior, (II) study the thermal stress they undergo as a result of temperature changes, (III) investigate the extent of any temperature changes, and (IV) support future lunar missions. To derive the surface and subsurface temperature distribution, we developed a ray-tracing illumination and thermal model to study the self-heating effect on the surface of airless bodies [2]. The model takes as input a 3D Digital Terrain Model (DTM) representing a specific surface feature, e.g., a pit. The model steps through time updating the orbital position and orientation (supplied by the NAIF SPICE toolkit) of the selected airless surface with respect to the Sun. Resulting radiative maps are supplied as boundary conditions to COMSOL Multiphysics, a cross-platform finite element analysis software, to perform modeling of near- and sub-surface temperatures. In this work, we present the preliminary surface and sub-surface temperatures throughout a lunar day for different synthetic 3D pits and cave geometries. The TRANQUILLITATIS pit (8.335°N, 33.222°E, diam: 84-99 m) located in Mare Tranquillitatis was selected as test case. We highlight that from the computation, this pit is currently returning a thermal stability around 17°C.

[1] Rossi, A.P., et al. 2021 [2] Cambianica, P., et al.,”Thermal impact of self-heating effect on airless surfaces. The case of Mercury. “ in prep.

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