Reasons Behind Moon’s Gradual Shrinkage and Landslides, Posing Challenges for Future Astronauts

Reasons Behind Moon's Gradual Shrinkage and Landslides, Posing Challenges for Future Astronauts

A recent study has uncovered that the Moon is gradually shrinking, resulting in an increase in landslides that could pose risks to future astronauts. Researchers from the University of Maryland revealed that the Moon’s core cooling has caused it to lose approximately 100 meters in circumference over the last few hundred million years.

While this shrinkage may seem gradual, it has led to significant surface warping in parts of the Moon’s south pole, including areas designated for NASA’s crewed Artemis III landings. The study warned that the accompanying seismic activity, such as moonquakes, could jeopardize locations near fault zones, presenting dangers for human exploration.

Study co-author Thomas Watters from the National Air and Space Museum 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.”

In linking faults in the Moon’s southern polar region to powerful moonquakes recorded over 50 years ago, researchers found that certain areas, particularly the Moon’s south pole, are susceptible to landslides triggered by seismic shaking. Unlike earthquakes on Earth, moonquakes can last for hours, posing a threat to future human settlements.

The Moon’s surface, composed of loose sediment resulting from billions of years of asteroid and comet collisions, makes it vulnerable to shaking and landslides. As NASA plans its Artemis missions, including the first crewed flight to the Moon in over five decades, researchers aim to identify potentially hazardous locations for human exploration and develop strategies to mitigate lunar seismic activity.

“This work is helping us prepare for what awaits us on the Moon – whether that’s engineering structures that can better withstand lunar seismic activity or protecting people from really dangerous zones,” explained Dr. Nicholas Schmerr, another author of the study.

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