Though most of the attention is on Mars, there are some folks advocating for humanity to make a run at colonizing the moon before we expand to the Red Planet. But it turns out that might not be quite as easy as we’d thought.
A new study from Arizona State University painstakingly tracked seven years' worth of lunar imagery and determined the moon is getting hit by small impacts as much as 100 times more often than first thought. The study was published in the Oct. 13 issue of Nature. Put simply, this means any lunar settlers will face a more dangerous and aggressive situation than first thought. So we’d have to rethink everything from the shielding on lunar structures, to the design of the space suits astronauts there would wear in the long term.
“Before the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2009, we thought that it took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to change the lunary surface layer significantly,” the study’s lead author Emerson Speyerer said. “But we’ve discovered that the moon’s uppermost surface materials are completely turned over in something like 80,000 years.”
The team tracked the minute changes in the lunar surface, and realized it was changing much faster than current models would’ve predicted. It’s not a deal-breaker for future moon exploration, but it’s certainly something NASA (or any other space agency that makes the moon a priority) will need to consider.
TL;DR: Space is hard.
(Via Arizona State University)