New Study Highlights Risks of Moonquakes and Landslides for NASA Astronauts
A groundbreaking new scientific study has revealed that regolith landslides and moonquakes near the lunar south pole could pose a significant threat to NASA astronauts. The study, conducted by a team of researchers, found that the shrinking of the moon’s circumference over the past few hundred million years has led to the wrinkling and fracturing of its surface, creating fault zones.
Moonquakes, generated by activity at these faultlines, have the potential to put astronauts in danger when attempting to establish a base at the lunar south pole. Using computer models, researchers discovered that slip events around existing fault areas could trigger shallow moonquakes capable of generating powerful tremors.
The consequences of these moonquakes are not to be taken lightly. Powerful shakes have the ability to dislodge regolith, triggering landslides that can extend up to 10 km from a fault zone. The resulting landslides could potentially damage structures and endanger the lives of astronauts.
Based on their findings, the researchers identified potential landing locations that NASA should avoid when planning future missions to the Moon’s surface. This information will be invaluable in ensuring the safety of astronauts and preventing unnecessary risks during lunar exploration.
NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon, recently announced delays, pushing the first crewed launch to 2025 and postponing astronauts’ return to the lunar surface until September 2026 at the earliest. Prior to crewed missions, robotic missions were planned to pave the way for exploration. However, recent attempts at landing on the Moon’s surface have faced challenges.
For instance, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander abruptly ended its mission due to a propulsion anomaly, leaving scientists to reassess strategies. Likewise, Japan’s SLIM spacecraft survived the descent, but was unable to generate electricity, leading to further setbacks.
The study’s findings further emphasize the critical importance of prioritizing the safety of astronauts, equipment, and infrastructure in future lunar missions. With potential risks posed by moonquakes and landslides, thorough planning and precautionary measures will be vital to ensure the success and security of NASA’s endeavors. As we continue to venture further into space, understanding these potential dangers becomes increasingly crucial.
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