Saturday, 07 December, 2019


NASA launches rah-rah trailer for 2024 moon mission: 'We are going'

Jim Bridenstine, and NASA Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer, participate in a media roundtable in front of the Orion test crew capsule at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Image credit NASA NASA spots Israeli spacecraft’s crash site on Moon
Kristine Garrett | 01 December, 2019, 10:09

President Trump has talked about NASA returning to the Moon and possibly constructing a long-term moonbase on the lunar surface.

The aptly-named Artemis mission will build off these past efforts and push lunar exploration to new heights.

While most were recorded deep in the interior, 28 were traced to the crust, just 200 kilometres from the surface. The quakes suggested it all on their own, though other forces can also shake the Moon.

Further data is needed to thoroughly test this result say the team but as the seismometers which faithfully radioed data back to Earth were switched off in 1977, this would fall to images collected by the LRO's narrow-angle camera (NAC) to help search for evidence of very recent changes in the landscape. "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".

During the Apollo missions, astronauts placed seismometers on the surface to measure seismic activity. On Earth, the quakes would have ranged in magnitude from about 2 to 5.

The team of scientists behind the new paper developed an algorithm that allowed them to accurately pinpoint the epicenters of these moonquakes.

Their study found that the locations of the quakes were close enough to the faults "to tentatively attribute them" as the cause.

We found that the epicentres of eight near-surface quakes fall within 30km of a fault scarp, the distance of the expected strong ground shaking.

The timing of the moonquakes was also important: numerous quakes occurred when the Moon was at or near its apogee - the furthest point in its orbit from Earth - when the tidal stresses on the rocky orb are at their highest. As a result, it has acquired thousands of small surface wrinkles in the form of surface features called thrust fault scarps. Researchers led by Thomas Watters, from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., published their findings Monday in Nature Geoscience.

Much as a grape wrinkles as it dries to become a raisin, the moon also wrinkles as its interior cools and shrinks.

Moonquakes, like the recent marsquakes that were recorded on Mars, are caused by the sudden release of energy transmitted as seismic waves and there are at least four different kinds of them on the Moon. The thrust fault carries crustal materials up and sometimes over adjacent crustal materials. These faults resemble small stair-shaped cliffs, or scarps, when seen from the lunar surface; each is roughly tens of yards high and a few miles long. They will need to take the potential for moonquakes into consideration by avoiding landing near or building any permanent structures on particularly "active" areas, Watters says. Some of these images show landslides or boulders at the bottom of relatively bright patches on the slopes of fault scarps or nearby terrain. Instead, any ongoing lunar geological resurfacing would be produced by the slow dissipation of heat from the Moon's core and the tidal stresses that Earth puts on Luna as it orbits.

A 3.5km wide view of part of the moon disturbed by faults.

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