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Researchers say a tiny planet slammed into the Moon a long time ago
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NASA just released a hype video for a Moon mission that probably wonÂ’t happen
NASA has planned on returning to the Moon for some time now, hashing out plans for its Lunar Gateway which will eventually serve as a jumping-off point for travelers headed to the Moon's surface. Then, back in March, the current presidential administration decided it wanted NASA to complete a return to the Moon as soon as possible, offering a mere five years to complete the task.The request was, to put it bluntly, absurd. NASA doesn't have the funding to pull it off, and even if it did it would require a truly monumental effort to meet the arbitrary deadline. Despite this, Trump-appointed NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine eagerly accepted the "challenge," and while everyone waits to see whether lawmakers will provide enough cash for a Moon 2024 mission to be possible, NASA just launched a hype video of sorts to assure everyone that a 2024 Moon mission is definitely, totally happening.The video emphasizes the collaborative efforts of NASA and its international partners, which is a good thing since there's no way the United States would be able to pull off the Gateway without help from just about everyone.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9KQfnquknoWhat's so interesting about this whole thing -- aside from the fact that a million hurdles stand between NASA and a Moon mission in 2024 -- is that when Trump sent Pence to deliver the new directive to NASA back in March, he did so while dismissing the efforts of many of NASA's key allies and emphasizing the need for the U.S. to be the superior space power.Now, NASA's hype video plays up collaboration and, presumably, was made to drum up some support for the mission among those who have influence in approving the funding NASA needs to make it a reality.Could NASA pull off the Moon 2024 mission? Absolutely, but the most important factors in whether it will even have the chance (like funding) are almost entirely out of its control. If the mission falls through it likely won't be because of a shortcoming on NASA's part, but because the demand was never realistic in the first place.The Lunar Gateway will be built, that much is certain. Whether it's built in time for the Moon 2024 mission, and whether that mission ever even comes close to happening at all, remains to be seen.
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New study suggests the Moon may be shrinking
Earth isn't the only place that "quakes." Rocky planets and moons regularly experience similar movements, and faults can form between massive chunks of crust on other worlds the same as they can here on Earth. The Moon is one place we know that experiences those kinds of shifts, and new research suggests that it might actually be making the Moon smaller over time.The study, which was published in Nature Geoscience, explains how the cliffs observed on the Moon's surface hint at a cooling spell that occurred after the Moon formed. As it cooled, it "shriveled like a raisin," and large cliffs formed on the surface when the Moon's crust was compressed. These regions, known as thrust faults, may still be growing today, and the overall size of the Moon may be shrinking as a result.The researchers combined observations from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter with new analysis of seismic readings gathered during the Apollo moon missions. This revisiting of the data revealed the approximate source of dozens of lunar quakes detected by the instruments."We found that a number of the quakes recorded in the Apollo data happened very close to the faults seen in the LRO imagery," Nicholas Schmerr of the University of Maryland, co-author of the study, said in a statement. "It's quite likely that the faults are still active today. You don't often get to see active tectonics anywhere but Earth, so it's very exciting to think these faults may still be producing moonquakes."As on Earth, pressure along fault lines builds up to a point where the force of friction can no longer prevent the large rocky plates from moving. When that movement occurs, a quake is felt, and in the case of the Moon the continued movement of the plates may indicate that it's not done shrinking.The researchers suggest that this is just another of many reasons why mankind should prioritize a revisit of the Moon. Learning more about how the Moon works and the mechanics at play on the surface could teach us a great deal about other planets as well, and help prepare organizations like NASA for trips deeper into space.
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Researchers say a tiny planet slammed into the Moon a long time ago
Earth's Moon only ever shows us one face. It's locked into its current orientation, with a permanent nearside and farside, but it wasn't until the Apollo missions that scientists were able to see just how different the two sides really are. The nearside, with its sea of dark gray basins standing in contrast to the brilliant white powder that covers the rest of its face, varies dramatically from the farside, which is marked with countless smaller craters in a more uniform distribution.The debate over how the Moon's split personalities developed has raged for decades, but new research seems to indicate that one of the possible explanations does indeed hold water. The theory, that Earth's Moon was struck by a tiny dwarf planet long ago, is the subject of a new research paper published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.Using computer models to simulate what may have happened to the Moon's surface long ago, researchers suggest the most likely scenario seems to be the collision between the Moon and a very large body. The impact of a dwarf planet as large as 480 miles across would have struck what we see today as the Moon's nearside at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour.This theory stands in contrast to other proposed explanations, including the theory that Earth may have once had not one Moon, but two. The two-moon theory suggests that Earth's moon duo may have at one point collided and merged, leaving the Moon as we see it today looking oddly unsymmetrical.The dwarf planet collision scenario assumes that whatever the body that struck the Moon was, it was in its own path around the Sun and just happened to be in the right place at the right time to strike Earth's natural satellite. This, the researchers say, would also explain why the crust on the farside of the Moon is different than that of its nearside."We demonstrate that a large body slowly impacting the nearside of the Moon can reproduce the observed crustal thickness asymmetry and form both the farside highlands and the nearside lowlands," the paper explains. "Additionally, the model shows that the resulting impact ejecta would cover the primordial anorthositic crust to form a two?layer crust on the farside, as observed."
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