The impact of visitors on the moon

Shutterstock.com/ Vadim Sadovski

When people first landed on the moon in 1969 they thought it was the dawn of a new age. Since then we have struggled to return the moon but we continue to learn about it. A new study has shown that the people who walked on the moon actually altered the temperature of the moon itself. This extraordinary development raises considerable practical and ethical questions about the moon landing and about future ventures into space.

During the Apollo 15 and 17 missions in 1971 and 1972 a number of temperature tests were taken. Astronauts drilled holes into the ground almost 10 feet deep and put thermometers inside to measure the temperature of the moon on the surface and lower down. In 1975 NASA noted strange warming taking place on the surface of the moon. 

The changes in the moon temperature were small ranging from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius but that is still very significant. If the Earth’s temperature increased by this much we would be in big trouble (as a side note, that is happening and that is why climate change is a huge concern). The data also showed that the changes were taking place at the surface level, clearly it was something from the outside impacting the temperature. 

The leading theory is that when astronauts walked on the moon they kicked up some space dust. This uncovered a darker layer of deposit called regolith. This regolith absorbs more light than the other space dust, because it is darker and heated as a result. The findings show how fickle the moon is to changes in temperature. If 10 or so footprints could change the temperature this much, imagine how volatile a small meteor hitting would be.

One of the most important things when doing any research is to ensure the test itself does not interfere with the study. If it does, your whole test is basically rendered useless if you are unable to factor it out. By changing the temperature themselves this made it incredibly difficult for NASA to determine what normal temperature changes were like on the moon during that period. It highlights the importance in any study to keep a solid distance. Let’s hope that in future studies to space, whether it is the moon or even Mars, we don’t raise such problems. At least Mars has an atmosphere that controls its climate so we are less likely to mess that one up.