NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland has announced plans to deploy a groundbreaking moonquake detector during the upcoming Artemis 3 mission.

The detector, dubbed the Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS), has been chosen as one of the initial three potential payloads for Artemis 3. Developed as a compact and autonomous seismometer, LEMS is designed to facilitate long-term monitoring of ground motion stemming from moonquakes, particularly in the vicinity of the Moon’s south pole.

Unlike its predecessors, LEMS is engineered to operate efficiently on the lunar surface for extended periods, ranging from three months to a remarkable two years. With the potential to evolve into a cornerstone of a future global lunar geophysical network, this instrument represents a crucial advancement in lunar exploration technology.

Moonquakes, initially observed during the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s, are triggered by gravitational forces akin to those influencing ocean tides. The Moon’s surface experiences tremors as it undergoes expansion and contraction due to temperature fluctuations, leading to seismic activity.

While seismic data from previous missions focused on the Earth-facing side of the Moon near the equator, a significant knowledge gap persists regarding seismic activity at the lunar south pole. The deployment of LEMS aims to address this gap, providing scientists with invaluable insights into both local and global lunar surface structures.

Alongside LEMS, two other candidate instruments have been identified for potential deployment during the Artemis 3 mission. These include the Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora Instrument, spearheaded by researchers at Space Lab Technologies, and the Lunar Dielectric Analyzer instrument, led by researchers from Tokyo University and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

As NASA continues its ambitious Artemis program, these cutting-edge instruments promise to revolutionize our understanding of the Moon’s geological dynamics, paving the way for future lunar exploration and scientific discovery.