Explosions rock the Moon

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Since 2005, NASA has observed 100 explosions on the surface of the Moon. The big booms, usually equivalent to a few hundred pounds of TNT, are caused by meteoroids smashing into the Moon's surface. The flashes of the bigger impacts are easily spotted by amateur astronomers on Earth using a backyard telescope. NASA launched the monitoring program in response to the recent plans to send humans back to the Moon.
These explosions don't require oxygen or combustion. Meteoroids hit the moon with tremendous kinetic energy, traveling 30,000 mph or faster. "At that speed, even a pebble can blast a crater several feet wide. The impact heats up rocks and soil on the lunar surface hot enough to glow like molten lava – hence the flash..."

Fortunately, says (the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, Bill) Cooke, astronauts are in little danger. "The odds of a direct hit are negligible. If, however, we start building big lunar outposts with lots of surface area, we'll have to carefully consider these statistics and bear in mind the odds of a structure getting hit."

Secondary impacts are the greater concern. When meteoroids strike the Moon, debris goes flying in all directions. A single meteoroid produces a spray consisting of thousands of "secondary" particles all traveling at bullet-like velocities. This could be a problem because, while the odds of a direct hit are low, the odds of a secondary hit may be significantly greater. "Secondary particles smaller than a millimeter could pierce a spacesuit," notes Cooke.


  1. Just the other day at Home Depot, I was pricing giant domes capable of deflecting pieces of rock traveling at 30,000 mph. They’re surprisingly reasonable. ;)

  2. “Why would people want to live on the Moon?” the girl murmured.
    “Chronic malcontents,” he said, sleepily. “Normal people don’t need to. Normal people would be satisfied with life as it is.”

    If you know the source of that, then you know the dangers of lunar inhabitation.

  3. The other obvious solution is to build under the surface.

    Yeah it’s the boring option but I would imagine it makes a whole bunch of various problems easier to deal with.

    Giant lasers shooting meteorites out of the sky could provide the necessary cool factor.

  4. What do meteoroids do when they hit the earth? Shouldn’t there be at least this many meteoroids hitting the earth since we are larger and have a greater gravitational pull?

  5. DOUGP, they burn up in the atmosphere. It happens all the time, we call them “shooting stars”. A meteor has to be something like the size of a railroad car to reach the surface, and those just aren’t terribly common.

  6. That’s only 8 miles a second. Gimme a .22 rifle and some ammo, and I could keep them varmints away from yer moon base.

  7. @5:
    he other obvious solution is to build under the surface […] I would imagine it makes a whole bunch of various problems easier to deal with.

    None that are not dealt with much more efficiently and cheaply by not being on the moon in the first place.

  8. Yeah, and you could build away from earthquake zones, and away from the coast in hurricane areas, and not in tornado alley, and away from avalanche-prone mountain areas, and off flood plains, and….

  9. Now wait just a minute here, who says it’s meteorites? Flashes on the Moon or Transient Lunar Phenomenon(TLPs) might be caused by things other than impact events like the explosive release of radon gas or electrostatic phenomenon. Evidence for these theories includes the fact that TLPs have been observed to often certain spots on the moon.(http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect19/Sect19_3.html)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristarchus_%28crater%29)

    This is weird because it is rare for meteoroids to strike the same spot twice or near the same spot twice. Then again the Moon is a very weird place.

    Either way, it makes lots of sense to build an underground moon base. And speaking of moon lasers, NASA actually looked into having self-replicating robots build industrial lasers for machining parts.(http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/) I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to program these robots to build an array of them to deflect incoming meteoroids. Of course it would be much easier to have them build a mass driver and shoot stuff at the meteoroid until it is deflected.

  10. Does this remind no one else of Space 1999? Big lunar outposts? Explosions? Anyone?

  11. On a quick skim, the second sentence in the post looked like “…caused by metroids…” and I was all, “Fuck! I knew it! Get me a silent female bounty hunter, ASAP!”

  12. Time to hit the drawing board to work on self-healing materials…

    How about a giant dome made of cutting-mat material ;)

  13. Kaiza: Shi’ar technology. Unstable molecules. You can make them do anything.

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