The Moon is shrinking – and it’s bad news for us

Our nearest neighbour is getting smaller (Picture: Getty Images)

The Moon is shrivelling like a raisin and it could mean humans may never be able to populate it.

Problems started when it was first formed 4.53 billion years ago. Its interior began to cool and for the past few hundred million years, this cooling has led to it shrinking 100 metres in circumference. 

That shrinking is still happening to this day.

The lunar landscape has been changing over time, and the continued shrinking has led to some surface changes around the moon’s South Pole – a key area for future human habitation – according to Planetary Science Journal,

Researchers linked a group of faults in that region to one of the most powerful moonquakes recorded by Apollo seismometers more than 50 years ago. 

Essentially, the Moon is a drying-out (space) grape, with a brittle surface that wrinkles and creases. 

This brittleness allows the crust to push up against each other to cause cliffs known as thrust faults. 

The Moon is like a grape – in that it’s shrivelling (Picture: Getty Images)

These thrust faults act as tectonic plates, causing ‘moonquakes’, which occur around 100 miles deep into the moon’s crust.

These can last for hours because the Moon is essentially just one big lump, unlike Earth, meaning there’s nothing to stop them rumbling on and on.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to relocate, this new revelation means any human-made settlements created on the terrain are likely to collapse, putting long-term human settlement on the Moon at risk. 

Several countries, including China, are hoping to build permanent bases on the Moon (Picture: Getty)

Dr Thomas R Watters, from the National Air and Space Museum, said: ‘Our modelling suggests that shallow moonquakes capable of producing strong ground shaking in the south polar region are possible from slip events on existing faults or the formation of new thrust faults.

‘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.’

This also may mean the areas Nasa has proposed for its return to the Moon landings with Artemis III in 2026 could be dangerous. 

Co-author Dr Nicholas Schmerr said: ‘As we get closer to the crewed Artemis mission’s launch date, it’s important to keep our astronauts, our equipment and infrastructure as safe as possible.

‘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.’

Nasa hopes to launch its first crewed Artemis flight in late 2024, but the ultimate plan is to establish a long-term presence on the lunar surface. With these plans, researchers hope to scope out the Moon to identify more locations that may be dangerous for human exploration.

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