Scientific Warning: Moonquakes Loom Near Artemis Landing Site Due to Moon’s Shrinkage
As space agencies plan crewed lunar missions, including the upcoming Artemis missions, and consider establishing lasting moon settlements, geologists are highlighting the importance of accounting for lunar hazards beyond just terrain and water availability.
Recent research examining the moon’s south polar region, a designated landing site for Artemis 3 in 2026, has identified fault lines that triggered a significant moonquake about 50 years ago.
Unveiling Lunar Secrets
This discovery emphasizes the need for mission planners to factor in the potential risks associated with moonquakes and lunar landslides.
The research builds on data from certain Apollo missions that carried seismometers to the moon.
A strong moonquake detected on March 13, 1973, near the moon’s south pole prompted further investigation. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later identified fault lines in the region, and researchers have now connected these faults to the historical moonquake.
Moonquakes, caused by shifting faults, are comparable to earthquakes, with lunar creases forming as the moon’s surface shrinks due to interior cooling over millions of years.
Moonquakes and Fault Lines
The moon’s surface, less tightly packed than Earth’s, consists of loose particles that can be displaced by impacts, making moonquakes more likely to trigger landslides compared to earthquakes on Earth.
The researchers caution that understanding lunar seismic activity is crucial as human missions draw nearer to tread the moon once again. The study’s models indicate potential vulnerabilities, such as the risk of landslides in areas like Shackleton Crater, known for its ice deposits.
Nicholas Schmerr, a geologist involved in the research, emphasizes the importance of preparing for lunar hazards as crewed missions approach. This preparation could involve engineering structures that withstand lunar seismic activity and safeguarding astronauts from hazardous zones.
The study, published in The Planetary Science Journal on Jan. 25, provides valuable insights to enhance the safety and success of future lunar missions.
As humanity gears up for renewed lunar exploration, understanding and mitigating potential hazards such as moonquakes and landslides become paramount. The research underscores the need for comprehensive planning and engineering solutions to ensure the safety of astronauts and infrastructure during upcoming crewed lunar missions.