Like a Raisin: Study Finds Earth’s Shrinking Moon is Causing Quakes

The Moon is shrinking Five decades on Apollo mission data still surprising

The moon is shrinking like a grape — and that may be causing ‘moonquakes,’ NASA says | The Kansas City Star

Eight of them fell within about 18 miles of a series of cliff-like lunar landmarks, called scarps, recently identified by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University / Smithsonian Institution.

Apart from the plain and simple fact that this new finding helps us understand the Moon better, it is significant because humans are looking to establish a base there by the turn of the century, and information about tectonic activity would be necessary to mitigate risk and help decide optimal locations for explorers to reach. But the lunar faults, like Earth's own fault lines, are similar in that occur where pieces of the surface sometimes rub against each other, causing quakes that can reverberate throughout the planet.

From the data analysed and algorithms used, researchers were able to determine eight of the 28 shallow quakes recorded were within 30 kilometres of faults and were visible in lunar images.

The instruments left by Apollo astronauts in the past finished their work in 1977. Unlike a grape's flexible skin that conforms as it shrivels into a raisin, the moon's surface is brittle and it breaks and cracks as it shrinks.

These fault scarps resemble small stair-step shaped cliffs when seen from the lunar surface, typically tens of yards (meters) high and extending for a few miles (several kilometers). This is where additional tidal stress from Earth's gravity causes a peak in the total stress, making slip-events along these faults more likely.

The thrust faults were expected to produce such quakes and their intensities ranged from two to five on the Richter scale.

NASA has revealed its upcoming moon mission, which is now tied to an ambitious 2024 deadline, will be led by both male and female astronauts for the first time.

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"You don't often get to see active tectonics anywhere but Earth, so it's very exciting to think these faults may still be producing Moonquakes".

In 2010, Apollo mission seismic data showed that moon has been cooling and shrinking down. Additionally, the new analysis found that six of the eight quakes happened when the Moon was at or near its apogee, the farthest point from Earth in its orbit. This rules out the possibility of asteroid impacts or rumblings from the moon's interior.

Instead, they're hoping Congress can hook them up with a 12-figure budget to support a brand-new mission to the moon, which would mirror the original Apollo moon landing missions and be called Artemis (the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology).

Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, emphasized that NASA would take lessons learned from the Commercial Cargo, Commercial Crew, and Commercial Lunar Payload Services programs to inform future commercial partnerships.

If NASA wants to go back to the moon, it'll need some money. With a larger network of modern seismometers, we could make huge strides in our understanding of the Moon's geology.

Bridenstine added: "The president has granted us 1.6 billion additional dollars, that didn't come from the science mission directorate, it didn't come from the International Space Station - 1.6 billion additional dollars for our acceleration of the lunar programme so that we can get the next man and the first woman to the surface of the moon".

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