In a recent study, it has been unveiled that the Moon has experienced a reduction in circumference, losing around 150 feet around its waist due to the cooling of its core over the past few hundred million years.
This revelation, funded by NASA and published in the Planetary Science Journal, presents challenges for future lunar missions, especially amid plans for colonization by 2040.
The research, spearheaded by Tom Watters of the Smithsonian Institution, indicates potential consequences for Moon-faring endeavors. The study highlights the possibility of shallow moonquakes in the south-polar region, triggered by slip events on existing faults or the creation of new thrust faults as the Moon undergoes global contraction.
Watters emphasized, “The global distribution of young thrust faults, their potential to be active, and the potential to form new thrust faults from ongoing global contraction should be considered when planning the location and stability of permanent outposts on the Moon.”
The concern deepens as researchers identify a concentration of faults near the Moon’s South Pole, set for the Artemis III landing in 2026. This region, rife with potential moonquake epicenters, poses risks for future lunar activities, envisioning lunar habitats quivering, instruments trembling, and regolith cascading down slopes in lunar landslides.
The study connects a group of faults in the Moon’s south polar region to a powerful moonquake recorded over 50 years ago by Apollo seismometers. Simulation models show that some areas are particularly vulnerable to landslides from seismic shaking.
Lead author Thomas R. Watters stated, “Our modeling suggests that shallow moonquakes capable of producing strong ground shaking in the south polar region are possible from slip events on existing faults or the formation of new thrust faults.”
Co-author Nicholas Schmerr explained the unique nature of lunar quakes, persisting for hours unlike Earth’s tremors. He emphasized the loose, reworked surface material of the Moon, making it prone to shaking and landslides caused by factors like impacts from asteroids and comets over billions of years.
The study underlines the significance of considering the stability of the Moon’s surface when planning permanent outposts and settlements, emphasizing the need for cautious lunar exploration strategies in light of these findings.