New study shows the Moon is shrinking

A lot has changed since Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon almost 50 years ago.                  NASA

According to a new study, the moon's contractions continue today, causing ongoing surface fracturing.

Shallow moonquakes recorded at four different landing sites during the Apollo programme suggest that the Moon is now tectonically active, say scientists who have been trying to pin point the epicentre of the quakes with the help of data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

"Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the moon as soon as possible", Bridenstine told reporters on a telephone conference call late on Monday.

Data from the seismometers placed on the moon during the Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16 missions revealed 28 moonquakes recorded between 1969 and 1977. Scientists, who determined that the moonquakes are close enough to the fault lines to establish causality, published their analysis in a study in Nature Geoscience on Monday, according to NASA.

Trump announced all of his intentions in a series of tweets, which was later confirmed Monday evening, May 13 by the US space agency and Office of Management and Budget.

These cracks in the moon's surface can cause moonquakes, sometimes as strong as level five on the Richter scale.

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The Apollo astronauts first began measuring seismic activity on the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s, finding the vast majority were occurred deep in the body's interior while a smaller number were on its surface. $US1 billion ($1.44 billion) of the budget will go directly to the development of a commercial human lunar system that will take humans to the moon's surface. Furthermore, six of these eight quakes occurred when the moon was at the farthest point from Earth in its orbit, which causes additional stress and makes events along the faults more likely.

The Moon, "in its own little quiet way", is much more interesting, geologically, than we previously thought said Craig O'Neill, a planet tectonics expert from Macquarie University. On Earth, the quakes would have ranged in magnitude from about 2 to 5.

The researchers noted other evidence in the orbiter's photos of landslides and boulders at the bottom of bright patches, signaling recent activity. Because the return to the Moon will include women, Bridenstine said the new program would be named Artemis, after Apollo's twin sister.

"Among other things, it will allow us to accelerate our development of the Space Launch System and Orion, it will support the development of a human lunar landing system and it will support precursor capabilities on the lunar surface, including increased robotic exploration of the moon's polar region", he said.

The timing of the moonquakes was also important: numerous quakes occurred when the Moon was at or near its apogee - the furthest point in its orbit from Earth - when the tidal stresses on the rocky orb are at their highest. "This provides some very promising low-hanging fruit for science on a future mission to the moon". In March, Vice President Pence gave a speech at the National Space Council and said the return to the Moon would happen with or without NASA and called on it to become more efficient or risk being replaced.

Bridenstine, a former Oklahoma GOP congressman, acknowledged that 2024 was chosen as the deadline in part so that the first human mission to the moon in more than 50 years would come while Trump was still in office.

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