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Human interference threatens to change other planets’ pristine environments possibly offering clues to the origin of life on Earth.
The US astronauts’ numerous moonwalks during the 1970s have caused a temporary warming of the moon’s subsurface temperatures, according to a new study which examined “lost” tapes from NASA’s Apollo missions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.
During the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 missions in 1971 and 1972, NASA set up sensors on the moon to measure its surface and subsurface temperatures.
The data obtained as part of the “Heat Flow” experiment and beamed down to Earth revealed a gradual warming of the moon’s subsurface which appeared to have risen from 1.6 degrees C at the start of the experiment in 1971 to 3.5 degrees six years later.
Studying photographs taken by a super high-resolution camera aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) circling the moon, researchers found that as astronauts walked or drove on the moon, they disturbed the lunar soil exposing the darker subsoil which absorbed more of the sun’s energy and, therefore, increased the moon’s temperature.
The findings show how human activity can disrupt a system that has been in isolation for billions of years and which could provide valuable information for future missions to the moon and other planets, the study’s co-author Walter Kiefer, a senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, told CBC.
Since Neil Armstrong made “one giant leap for mankind” on July 20, 1969, 11 other astronauts have walked on the moon.
2018.06.12 / 18:25