The moon is shrinking, and this poses a danger for future settlements

Our moon is extremely slowly decreasing in size, and this causes deformations of its surface. As scientists have found, this can cause moonquakes, which can pose a danger to future lunar settlements.

Epicenters of tectonic events near the south pole of the Moon. Source: NASA/LRO/LROC/ASU/Smithsonian Institution

The moon is shrinking!

Scientists have known for some time that the moon is shrinking. Due to the slow loss of volatiles, its diameter has decreased by about 50 m over the past few hundred million years (that is, over a time comparable to the existence of multicellular life on Earth). Previously, scientists did not attach much importance to this fact, but new research has forced them to look at it in a new way.

In an article published in The Planetary Science Journal, a group of astronomers linked the fact of the shrinking size of our moon with the existence of a group of faults near the South Pole of the Moon. The process of its shrinkage is accompanied by the wrinkling of the surface. However, the crust is not elastic, but brittle, so it cracks.

This process is also accompanied by near-surface moonquakes. On Earth, we mainly deal with a deep type of tectonic phenomena associated with the movement of lithospheric plates. But there are also earthquakes, the sources of which lie near the surface, for example, the destruction of underground cavities. The same thing is observed on the moon.

What danger do moonquakes pose to future lunar cities?

The discovery of objects and phenomena associated with the slow shrinkage of the Moon, according to the authors of the study, is of great importance for the future creation of settlements. The fact that moonquakes happen there, although rarely, has been known since the days of the Apollo program.

Although, unlike on Earth, they can last not seconds and minutes, but hours, the danger from them has been considered insignificant due to their relative weakness. However, a new study shows that in the area of faults, they can cause significant landslides.

The problem is that these places are located right next to each other, and some are specifically on those sites that NASA has selected for future moon landings and the construction of a base there. And so far, all the concepts of buildings for our natural satellite have been developed based on the idea of it as a geologically dead body.

No one even thought to count the lunar buildings on the impact of tectonic landslides. And they pose a considerable threat to people working on the surface. Therefore, scientists suggest paying more attention to all this.

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