Pressurized lunar lava tubes for habitation

Raymond P. Martin, Haym Benaroya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lava tubes are subterranean tunnels that form as a result of lava flows and appear to extend for long distances beneath the surface of a planet. They are a naturally occurring feature of the Moon. For decades these cave systems have piqued the interest of researchers, not just for their geological complexity, but also for their potential as a habitation site when humans return to the Moon. The internal environment of a lunar lava tube promises to be a benign alternative to the harsh lunar surface; it can provide natural protection from radiation, micrometeoroids, and extreme temperature fluctuations. This paper furthers the study of lunar lava tubes by presenting the possibility of pressurizing them with breathable air. Using a 2D ANSYS simulation model, a range of lava tube sizes are subjected to varied magnitudes of internal pressurization. It is ultimately concluded that it is possible to pressurize a small lava tube while maintaining its structural integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-174
Number of pages18
JournalActa Astronautica
StatePublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering


  • Habitation
  • Lunar lava tubes
  • Structural integrity


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