When plotting sites for crewed lunar landings — ranging from the forthcoming Artemis missions to eventual lasting moon settlements — mission planners must account for tons of lunar parameters. For instance, the shape of the terrain could make or break a mission and a possible high volume of buried water could make one spot much more tantalizing than its drier counterpart. But now, geologists suggest it’s also important to keep moonquakes and lunar landslides in mind.
As the scientists emphasize, this is no longer an academic question. Researchers examining the moon’s south polar region — which sits near the planned landing side of Artemis 3, set to touch down in 2026 — have identified fault lines whose slips triggered a major moonquake about 50 years ago.
Certain Apollo missions carried seismometers along with them. On March 13, 1973, a particularly strong moonquake rattled those seismometers from the general direction of the moon’s south pole. Decades later, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flew over the south pole and discerned a webwork of fault lines. With new models, researchers have connected those faults with that moonquake.
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