Possible tectonic activity detected on the moon | Science & Tech News

The moon

Possible tectonic activity detected on the moon | Science & Tech News

Tectonic activity has been detected on the moon by researchers who have discovered a system of moving ridges topped with boulders on its near side.

“There’s this assumption that the moon is long dead, but we keep finding that that’s not the case,” said Professor Peter Schultz at Rhode Island’s Brown University.

“It appears that the moon may still be creaking and cracking – potentially in the present day – and we can see the evidence on these ridges,” explained Professor Schultz who co-authored a study published in the journal Geology.

Infrared (upper left) and other images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed strange bare spots where the Moon's ubiquitous dust is missing. The spots suggest an active tectonic process. Pic: NASA
The strange bare spots suggest an active tectonic process. Pic: NASA

The majority of the moon’s surface is covered by something called regolith, the powdery dust of rocks created by constant meteorite impacts.

Because the moon has no atmosphere to speak of, rocks and orbiting debris crash right into its surface and blow apart.

There are very few spaces on the lunar surface which aren’t covered by regolith – but some seemingly new spots have recently been discovered.

The first footprint on the Moon', Apollo 11 mission, July 1969. Boot-print of US astronaut Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the Moon, clearly visible in the lunar soil. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module, code named Eagle, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board, landed in the Sea of Tranquillity on 20 July 1969. Apollo 11 was the fifth manned Apollo mission, and was the first to land on the Moon. Artist NASA. (Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Regolith is powdery dust covering the moon’s surface

Adomas Valantinas, a graduate student at the University of Bern who was a visiting scholar at Brown, used data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to spot these strange bare spots.

“Exposed blocks on the surface have a relatively short lifetime because the regolith buildup is happening constantly,” Mr Schultz said.

“So when we see them, there needs to be some explanation for how and why they were exposed in certain locations.”

“Just as concrete-covered cities on Earth retain more heat than the countryside, exposed bedrock and blocky surfaces on the moon stays warmer through the lunar night than regolith-covered surfaces,” the researchers said.

So using a tool on the LRO to measure the surface’s temperature, Mr Valantinas was able to discover more than 500 patches of exposed bedrock on narrow ridges following a pattern across the nearside of the moon.

Such ridges had been discovered before, but they were on the edges of very ancient lava-filled impact basins and could be explained by continued sagging in response to weight caused by the lava fill.

The new study found that these ridges are actually related to a mysterious system of tectonic features – ridges and faults – unrelated to the lava-filled basins.

“The distribution that we found here begs for a different explanation,” Professor Schultz said.

Mapping out all of these exposed ridges, Mr Valantinas and Prof Schultz discovered an interesting correlation between them and a previous NASA mission.

Back in 2014, NASA’s GRAIL mission discovered a network of ancient cracks in the moon’s crust, which became channels for magma from the moon’s core to flow to the surface.

This network lined up almost perfectly with the blocky ridges.

“It’s almost a one-to-one correlation,” Prof Schultz said. “That makes us think that what we’re seeing is an ongoing process driven by things happening in the moon’s interior.”

So the ridges, according to these scientists, are ancient magma flows which are still heaving upwards – breaking the surface and draining the regolith into cracks and voids, leaving the blocks exposed.

“Because bare spots on the moon get covered over fairly quickly, this cracking must be quite recent, possibly even ongoing today,” they say.

But what is causing this? According to the scientists, the tectonic movements may actually have begun billions of years ago with a giant impact on the far side of the moon.

Professor Schultz had previously proposed such an impact had formed the 1500-mile South Pole Aitken Basin, and shattered the interior on the opposite side of the moon – the side facing the Earth.

Magma from the core then filled these cracks and controlled the pattern detected in the GRAIL mission. The blocky ridges comprising this network now trace the continuing adjustments along these ancient weaknesses.

“This looks like the ridges responded to something that happened 4.3 billion years ago,” Prof Schultz said. “Giant impacts have long lasting effects.

“The moon has a long memory. What we’re seeing on the surface today is testimony to its long memory and secrets it still holds.”

NASA selects Masten Space Systems to deliver cargo to Moon - Latest News

NASA selects Masten Space Systems to deliver cargo to Moon – Latest News

NASA has selected a California-based company called Masten Space Systems to deliver and operate eight payloads to the Moon‘s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

The payloads, which include nine instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis programme, the US space agency said on Wednesday.

The $75.9 million award includes end-to-end services for delivery of the instruments, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon’s surface, and operation for at least 12 days.

Masten Space Systems will land these payloads on the Moon with its XL-1 lander, NASA said.

“Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality. The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“These CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services ) deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I’m happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible,” Bridenstine said.

The payloads that will be delivered have been developed predominantly from the two recent NASA Provided Lunar Payloads (NPLP) and Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads (LSITP) solicitations.

Due to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA is leveraging virtual presence and communications tools to safely make progress on these important lunar exploration activities, and to award this lunar surface delivery as it was scheduled prior to the pandemic.

Super Pink Moon 2020: When is April Supermoon, Timing, and How to Watch

Super Pink Moon 2020: When is April Supermoon, Timing, and How to Watch ‘Pink Moon’ Live

The next supermoon of 2020 will appear on April 8 at 2:35am GMT (8:05am IST) and for the avid Moon-watchers, it’s going to be a special one as it’ll be the brightest and biggest full moon of the year. The April full moon has been traditionally known as the Pink Moon and it will be called Super Pink Moon this year because it is also supermoon, in addition to being a full moon. Unfortunately, people in India will not be able to watch this phenomenon as there will be daylight. However, supermoon enthusiasts in the country can watch the event live online.

Meanwhile, here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming supermoon.

What is a supermoon?

A supermoon orbit is closest to Earth. Due to this close distance from our planet, the Moon appears much larger and brighter. This month’s Super Pink Moon is said to be 356,907 km away from our planet. The average distance between Earth and the Moon is 384,400 km.

A full moon may not necessarily be a supermoon because the Moon revolves in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. A full moon can appear in the fullest form even when it is at a farther distance from our planet. According to a report by CNET, the April 8 supermoon will be the biggest and brightest supermoon of this year.

Why is it called Pink Moon?

When it comes to naming a full moon, the process usually depends on the native American regions and seasons. The name ‘Pink Moon’, therefore, refers to the pink flower (Phlox subulata) that blooms in spring in the east of North America and not the colour of the Moon, as per a Farmer’s Almanac report. The full moon around this of the year is also referred to as Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.

When was the last supermoon of 2020?

The last supermoon of 2020 appeared between 9 March to 11 March. March supermoon was popularly called as Super Worm Moon.

How to watch it from India – livestream

Since the Super Pink Moon will appear in India at 8:05am, people in the country will not be able to watch the phenomena by just looking at the sky as there will be daylight. But thanks to online websites, you can still watch the supermoon live.

Slooh will be streaming the forthcoming supermoon live on their YouTube channel.

Virtual Telescope is also known to host livestreams of supermoons. A live link should be up on their YouTube channel in the coming days.

NASA readies Orion spacecraft for Moon mission preparations - Latest News

NASA readies Orion spacecraft for Moon mission preparations – Latest News

NASA’s Orion spacecraft has come a step closer to integrating with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will take it to the Moon under the Artemis programme designed to land the first woman and the next man on lunar surface by 2024.

After engineers put the spacecraft through the rigors of environmental testing at NASA‘s Plum Brook Station in Ohio, it returned to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 25, the US space agency said on Thursday.

At Kennedy, the spacecraft will undergo final processing and preparations prior to launching on an uncrewed flight test, Artemis I, the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to the exploration of Mars.

Before it can be integrated with the SLS rocket, the Orion spacecraft — comprised of the crew module and service module — will go through a final round of testing and assembly.

Orion will then begin its ground processing journey.

Once integrated with SLS, a team of technicians and engineers will perform additional tests and checkouts to verify Orion and SLS operate as expected together, said NASA.

“The Artemis programme is the future of human space exploration, and to be a part of the design, assembly and testing of NASA’s newest spacecraft is an incredible, once-in-a-career opportunity,” Amy Marasia, spacecraft assembly operations lead in Orion production operations at Kennedy, said in a statement.

As the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion, Artemis I is critical to providing the foundation for human deep-space exploration.

“With Orion back at Kennedy, we’re ready,” said Scott Wilson, NASA Orion production operations manager.

“Ready to finalise the vehicle and send it to be integrated for its voyage to deep space, tackling the next era of human space exploration,” Wilson said.

Coronavirus delays work on NASA’s moon rocket and capsule

Coronavirus delays work on NASA’s moon rocket and capsule

By: New York Times |

Published: March 20, 2020 12:11:53 pm

Coronavirus delays work on NASA’s moon rocket and capsule Workers at the Michoud Assembly Facility. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Written by Kenneth Chang

The coronavirus pandemic on Earth is knocking NASA’s moon plans off course.

On Thursday evening, Jim Bridenstine, the space agency’s administrator, announced the suspension of the manufacture and testing of the Space Launch System and Orion, the giant rocket and crew capsule that would be used to take astronauts back to the moon.

The Trump administration had set a goal of the next moon landing occurring by the end of 2024. With the spread of the coronavirus, however, NASA is now shutting down work at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the rocket is being built, and the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, about 45 miles to the northeast of Michoud. The first Space Launch System booster is being tested at Stennis.

There has been one confirmed case of the coronavirus among Stennis employees. There are no confirmed cases at Michoud, but the number of infected people in the New Orleans area has risen quickly in the past few days.

The directive from Bridenstine is for workers at the two NASA sites to work remotely, but there is no way to build or test a rocket without people at the sites. The change takes effect Friday.

“The NASA and contractors teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume,” Bridenstine said in a news release. A minimal team will remain after the shutdown, only for security and to maintain critical infrastructure.

Development of the Space Launch System — a modern equivalent of the powerful Saturn 5 that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon — has been delayed for years, and the price tag has risen by billions of dollars. The first launch, a test flight without any astronauts aboard, was already not scheduled to occur before 2021. Now even that target may be too optimistic if work at Michoud and Stennis is suspended for an extended period.

“We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions,” Bridenstine said, “but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce.”

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There have also been confirmed coronavirus cases at two other NASA centers: the Ames Research Center in California and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. NASA has been encouraging employees to work from home if possible.

The spread of the coronavirus could also jeopardize the launch of the Perseverance rover, which is to head to Mars this summer. That spacecraft is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which has not yet been shut down.

Because of the orbital paths of Mars and Earth, the launch must occur in a window in July or August, or it would have to be delayed until 2022 when the two planets again line up.

Another Mars mission, ExoMars, a collaboration between Russia and the European Space Agency, has already been pushed back to 2022 from 2020, mostly because of technical problems that cannot be solved by July. Officials also acknowledged that the travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic would have made the work even more challenging to complete.

More optimistically, NASA announced Wednesday that it was aiming to launch astronauts to the International Space Station before the end of May.

Two astronauts would fly aboard Crew Dragon, a capsule built by SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, and would be the first crewed mission to lift off from the United States since the space shuttles were retired in 2011. Since then, NASA has been relying on Russia to provide transportation for its astronauts.

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