Skip to main content

Tremors on the Moon

CASTOFF An Apollo 17 astronaut stands beside the landing craft in 1972. The lander has been on the moon ever since. NASA

NASA scientists have discovered the cause of some small tremors, or moonquakes, on the lunar surface. They’re from a spacecraft that was left there 50 years ago.

When the Apollo 17 astronauts returned to Earth, in 1972, they left the mission’s landing craft behind. The moon’s temperatures swing from hot to cold. That causes metal in the lander to swell and shrink. This has been producing ground vibrations. They were picked up by sensors left by Apollo astronauts. Scientists studied this 50-year-old data.

The information could be useful to space agencies. They might build bases on the moon for future missions. Scientists will need to account for how the moon’s extreme temperatures affect the buildings and equipment they install.