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The Moon's surface is essentially full of fingerprints from ancient volcanic activity in the shape of lava tubes or volcanic caves similar to modern metro tunnels on Earth. South China Morning Post reports that China is looking at these hollow passageways as potential habitats for future astronauts in a long-term mission scheduled sometime after 2035.

Lunar volcanic caves are structures created when the outside layer of lava flows comes into contact with the cool exterior and hardened into rock while the middle material remains molten and flows away.

Scientists estimate that each lava tube can stretch for several kilometers and has tens of meters in width, allowing astronauts to live inside them. According to ZME Science, thick rock shells of volcanic caves are ideal insulators from the outside world that offer protection against extreme temperature variations on the Moon and space radiation.

Assistant Professor Pan Wente from the Harbin Institute of Technology's Architectural Design and Research Institute said in a space science assembly in China last month that the Moon's south pole could become crowded in the future with the extraction of water ice and because of the volcanic caves that can be used as lunar bases.

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