The Moon is Shrinking

The moon is shrinking like a grape — and that may be causing ‘moonquakes,’ NASA says | The Kansas City Star

The moon is a lot more seismically active than we thought

In 2010, an analysis of images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) found that the Moon shriveled like a raisin as its interior cooled, leaving behind thousands of cliffs called thrust faults on the lunar surface. This creates stair-step cliffs called thrust faults as part of the crust is pushed up and over another close part of the crust. New research suggests that these faults may still be active today, producing moonquakes.

What's more, most of the shakes happened when the Moon was at the point of its orbit furthest away from the Earth.

NASA also is trying to evolve its work culture, said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations for the space agency. Over time, the lunar surface darkens due to weathering and radiation, so bright spots are areas where recent activity has exposed areas on the lunar surface. Such tracks would be erased relatively quickly, in terms of geologic time, by the constant rain of micrometeoroid impacts on the Moon.

NASA also announced the name Artemis this week for its mission to send astronauts, including the first woman, to the moon in 2024. Each of the magnitudes of the 28 moonquakes would register as somewhere between two and five on the Richter scale if they had been carried out on Earth. Schmerr designed the algorithm that re-analyzed the Apollo data. Scientists know the Moon is too cold and still to have plate tectonics, like Earth, which keeps our whole crust sliding around in giant, continent-sized pieces.

"It's quite likely that the faults are still active today", said Dr. Nicholas Schmerr, an assistant professor of geology at the University of Maryland who co-authored the study.

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The authors used their model to produce "shake maps" based on predictions of where the strongest shaking should occur, given the size of thrust faults. Many in the space industry are concerned that the proposal may face opposition because of the Office of Management and Budget sought to offset the increased spending for NASA, and smaller, unrelated increases to other agencies, by proposing to cut Pell Grant funding, used to help low-income students pay for college, by almost $1.9 billion. NASA is requiring it to be reusable and integrated into two facilities that are in the works: a surface outpost, and what is being called the Lunar Gateway - a proposed office, laboratory and living space meant to orbit the moon.

The newly accelerated goal - an endeavor likely to cost tens of billions of dollars - comes as NASA has struggled with the help of private partners to resume human space missions from USA soil for the first time since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

"I have a daughter, she's 11 years old, and I want her to see herself in the same position that our current, very diverse astronaut corps now sees itself, having the opportunity to go to the Moon", Mr Bridenstine said.

The space agency wants to establish "sustainable missions by 2028" - taking what they learn from the moon and applying it to reaching Mars. With a larger network of modern seismometers, we could make huge strides in our understanding of the Moon's geology.

Mr Bridenstine has previously said President Trump's desire to put humans back on the moon by the year 2024 would provide an opportunity to test technology and capabilities before carrying out a mission to land on Mars by 2033.

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