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Unearthing Moonquakes: What Apollo 17 Left Behind on the Lunar Surface

Welcome back to The Not Top Secret Podcast, your source for all things conspiracies, cover-ups, UFOs, bizarre stories, unexplained mysteries, and the cryptic. Today, we're diving into a lunar mystery that's been hiding in plain sight for decades. When NASA's Apollo 17 mission departed the lunar surface in 1972, they left behind more than just footprints and a flag. A recent study by researchers from the California University of Technology has uncovered a fascinating revelation about the moon's surface - it experiences regular "moonquakes" caused by the very equipment left behind by the astronauts.

The Lunar Landmark:

As the Apollo 17 astronauts, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, made their historic departure from the Moon on December 14, 1972, they left behind various artifacts, including a U.S. flag, a lunar rover, and the lunar module's descent stage. Little did they know that this descent stage would become a crucial player in a lunar mystery.

Apollo 17

The Thermal Moonquakes:

The moon's surface undergoes extreme temperature variations, ranging from a scorching 250°F (121°C) during the day to a frigid -208°F (-133°C) during the lunar night. These temperature fluctuations cause the lunar surface to expand and contract, resulting in tiny tremors known as "thermal moonquakes." These natural phenomena had been recorded, but their true nature remained hidden.

Modern Analysis:

Geophysicist Professor Allen Husker and his team from the California University of Technology revisited the data collected by the seismometers placed on the Moon by Apollo 17 astronauts. Using advanced techniques, including machine learning, they cleaned up and analyzed the data more comprehensively. What they discovered was astonishing.

Data from the modules picking up the seismic activity

Regular Lunar Morning Quakes:

The team found that thermal moonquakes occurred with remarkable regularity, specifically every lunar morning and afternoon. The afternoon quakes were the result of the lunar surface cooling as the Sun departed its peak position. However, it was the morning quakes that puzzled scientists.

The Source of Morning Quakes:

Through triangulation of the seismic data, Husker's team identified the source of the morning quakes - the left-behind descent stage of the Apollo 17 lunar module. This octagonal prism, measuring 14 feet across, contained equipment, fuel tanks, and even the lunar rover. It was the warming and expanding of this stage in the morning sunlight that caused the extra moonquakes.

Apollo 17 landing site

Implications for Future Lunar Missions:

While these moonquakes might seem insignificant, they hold valuable lessons for future lunar missions, especially as NASA prepares to return to the Moon through the Artemis program. Understanding the thermal expansion and contraction is crucial for the design of lunar landers, rovers, and scientific instruments. This knowledge will help ensure the durability and functionality of equipment on the lunar surface.

Seismic Insight:

Seismological studies of the Moon provide a unique opportunity to explore its subsurface structure. Lunar seismic waves travel at different speeds, allowing scientists to gain insights into the moon's composition. This data can be used to map subsurface cratering and search for valuable deposits, such as water ice in permanently shadowed regions. Water ice is of particular interest for future lunar missions, as it could provide essential resources for astronauts.


The lunar mysteries left behind by Apollo 17 continue to unfold. Thanks to modern technology and the dedication of researchers like Professor Allen Husker and his team, we now have a better understanding of the hidden moonquakes and their origins. This discovery not only sheds light on the moon's geological activity but also paves the way for future lunar exploration. As we look forward to humanity's return to the Moon, we'll undoubtedly uncover even more secrets hidden within our celestial neighbor. Stay tuned for more intriguing stories on The Not Top Secret Podcast!

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