NASA Dubs 2024 Moon Mission 'Artemis,' Asks for $1.6 Billion

NASA Dubs 2024 Moon Mission 'Artemis,' Asks for $1.6 Billion

NASA Dubs 2024 Moon Mission 'Artemis,' Asks for $1.6 Billion

The Moon has acquired thousands of small surface wrinkles in the form of surface features called thrust fault scarps.

Now, new research has tracked the epicenters of each small moonquake, and found that eight of them could be traced to within 20 miles of so-called fault scarps.

Although the Apollo instruments recorded their last quake shortly before the instruments were retired in 1977, the researchers suggest that the moon is likely still experiencing quakes to this day.

The researchers in the new study wanted to see if the shallow moonquakes that the Apollo missions detected were linked with faults on the lunar surface, and thus ongoing tectonic activity on the moon.

"This is exciting as it wasn't clear if the moon had already gone through this period billions of years ago and was tectonically dead, or if it was still active in the present", Nicholas Schmerr, study author from the University of Maryland, said in a statement.

The Moon's cooling interior temperatures have caused the lunar orb to shrivel by 150ft (50m) over hundreds of millions of years. 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.

Unlike the flexible skin of a grape as it shrinks into a raisin, the Moon's crust is brittle and prone to crusting and breaking when pressure is put on it. This incredible process causes the Moon's delicate surface to crack and break away, creating tectonic faults.

NASA just got the evidence that confirms "these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes today as the Moon continues to gradually cool and shrink", said senior scientist Thomas Watters, with the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, according to the release.

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As a result, researchers were able to "tentatively attribute" the recorded quakes to the faults. 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.

Astronauts from NASA's Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 left behind seismometers on the Moon to scan the lunar orb for tectonic activity.

Additionally, six of the eight moonquakes recorded near the faults occurred when the Moon was at its farthest point from Earth in its orbit - its apogee. These tracks are evidence of a recent quake because they should be erased relatively quickly, in geologic time scales, by the constant rain of micrometeoroid impacts on the Moon.

The LRO has imaged more than 3,500 fault scarps on the moon since it began operation in 2009.

The Apollo missions also detected about one moonquake per day resulting from space rocks hitting the lunar surface.

The scientists detailed their findings online today (May 13) in the journal Nature Geoscience.

"For me, these findings emphasize that we need to go back to the moon", Schmerr said. "This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the moon".

This Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) picture shows a prominent lunar lobate thrust fault scarp.

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