Assuming the recently discovered lava tube is exactly what scientists think it might be, and assuming you could build 2 walls and a door in side the lava tube, and assuming you filled it with a breathable atmosphere...

How livable would such a place be?

Would people need to wear protective clothing? Would the air pressure blow the roof off? Would the natural gravity be high enough to support life? Would the enclosure retain the right amount of heat to sustain a livable temperature? Etc. (These are sample questions, not necessarily relevant to the answer)

In general, would the lunar lava tube, with nothing more than 2 new walls, and a breathable air pressure be able to sustain a livable environment?

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    $\begingroup$ @Matthew the question is a bit non-standard for SE, but it's compelling and timely, and in this case there's a good chance this has been thought through somewhere already and may have a well-sourced answer. Let's give it some time and see what happens. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 20 '17 at 4:57
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    $\begingroup$ mmm, ... our ancestors were cave dwellers & there's potential that the first representatives of humans living on celestial bodies will also be cave dwellers. History potentially repeating itself. $\endgroup$ – Fred Oct 20 '17 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ The lunar lava tube should be able to withstand and hold the pressure of the air. "The new walls" have to hold very large strain due to pressure and should be inserted into the tube airtight. An airlock is necessary too, simply a door would not suffice. Electrical energy should be available for use inside the habitat. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 20 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ Such a lava tube has been there a long time. You really think no meteor impact since hasn't put a crack in it somewhere? It might be structurally useful but I can't imagine it would be airtight. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Oct 21 '17 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ There's a relevant Engineering SE answer engineering.stackexchange.com/questions/2210/… $\endgroup$ – Erin Anne Oct 24 '17 at 2:58

It could be, assuming it is in fact sealed. But the likelihood of it being completely sealed are unlikely. There are a couple of workarounds to such habitats that I have seen:

  1. Use some kind of an inflatable habitat inside of the lava tube- This would offer protection against radiation, thermal regularity, etc.
  2. Seal the walls somehow.There are a few ways that this could be done. One could imagine spraying some kind of a solution on the entire exposed walls, or melting the surface, or something like that to give it some kind of seal.

Personally, I can't imagine humans being in such a surface without at least 2 layers of protection against atmospheric loss. The structure of the cave will probably be shored up via some kind of coating, followed by at least one interior bubble, and possibly a second one. The cave would need to be made sturdy enough where it wouldn't fall, and to have any sharp pieces dulled down some.

  • $\begingroup$ Spraying a solution in a vacuum might be difficult, using water as solvent impossible. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jan 12 '18 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know enough about material science to know for sure, but it likely would be tricky. I suspect patching the known hole, using gas puffs to find incrementally smaller ones, and spraying something once you can maintain enough air pressure. $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jan 12 '18 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto I suspect you could do it by first coating the walls to address most of the leaks and then spraying something that would set up quickly while pumping some sort of gas into the tube. The leaks would draw the material in and it would set up, sealing them. Might want to do it robotically as the likely pressurizing gas is oxygen (a sufficiently hot solar furnace applied to regolith will produce all you want.) $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Jan 13 '18 at 4:59

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