'Moonquakes' and landslides: How a shrinking Moon threatens future NASA space missions

Credit: AP

The Moon is gradually shrinking, causing "moonquakes" and landslides which could threaten future space missions, says a new study.

According to NASA, the Moon has shrunk by about 45 metres in circumference over the last few million years as its molten core has cooled.

This shrinking is causing "moonquakes" and landslides - the strongest registering the equivalent of a magnitude 5.0 quake - which could be dangerous for future astronauts.

The Moon's south pole is particularly prone to "moonquakes", but has been identified by NASA as a potential landing site for its 2026 Artemis III mission.

Thomas Watters, a senior scientist at the National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies said: "On the Earth, you have a much stronger gravity keeping you attached to the surface. On the moon, it’s much smaller, so even a little bit of ground acceleration is going to potentially pop you off your feet, if you’re walking along."

“That kind of shaking can really start throwing things around in a low G environment."

“This is not to alarm anyone and certainly not to discourage exploration of that part of the south pole of the moon, but to raise the caution that the moon is not this benign place where nothing is happening.”

Chandrayaan-3 Lander, an Indian spacecraft, successfully landed on the lunar south pole last year. Credit: X/@isro

The warning comes amid growing international space exploration of the Moon.

Interest in the lunar south pole spiked last year when India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission made the first successful landing in the area, just days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed en route to the site.

China also has planned missions to the Moon's south pole.

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