The Moon, a constant presence in our night sky, is undergoing a subtle transformation—it’s shrinking. Recent research, published in The Planetary Science Journal, reveals how the moon’s south polar region has been affected by this process, potentially impacting future lunar missions.
NASA previously reported the moon’s gradual shrinkage due to interior cooling, losing about 150 feet over millions of years. Similar to Earth, the moon experiences quakes and faults as it cools internally.
This new study delves into how these moonquakes and faults could affect lunar exploration. Lead author Tom Watters suggests that shallow moonquakes in the south polar region could arise from slip events on existing faults or the formation of new ones. This insight is crucial for planning future lunar outposts, particularly near potential landing sites for missions like Artemis III.
The Moon’s south pole is particularly intriguing because it’s believed to hold frozen water, essential for sustaining future missions. However, the presence of moonquakes and potential landslides in this area presents challenges for manned missions.
While concerns about lunar surface stability exist, immediate impacts on Artemis III planning seem minimal. Moonquakes are difficult to predict, and the risk to short-term missions is low. However, long-term human presence on the Moon may necessitate careful consideration of these geological factors.
As for Earth, the Moon’s shrinking occurs at an extremely slow pace, with no noticeable effects on tides or celestial events expected in our lifetimes. So, while the Moon may be changing, it won’t disrupt our daily lives anytime soon.