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"People are choosing to allow television and Electronic Arts to do all their imagining for them."
- Peter Watts

Moonquake-Proof Habitats  
  Moonbases that are built to withstand quakes on the Moon.  

The Moon is geologically (selenologically!) active; instruments left by the Apollo astronauts from 1969 to 1972 demonstrate that from 600-3000 quakes occur per year. Shallow moonquakes (only 20-30 kilometers below the surface) have energy equivalent to Richter 5.5 quakes on Earth, and can last for ten minutes or more.

Has anyone thought about this problem? Fortunately, we have Heinlein.

"Every engineering job has its own hazards," he insisted, "and its advantages, too. Our men don't get malaria and they don't have to watch out for rattlesnakes..."

"Okay, okay," I interrupted, "so the place is safe... So you keep unnecessary airlocks. Why?"

He hesitated before he answered, "Quakes."

Quakes. Earthquakes-moonquakes, I mean. I glanced at the curving walls sliding past and I wished I were in Des Moines. Nobody wants to be buried alive, but to have it happen in the Moon-why, you wouldn't stand a chance. No matter how quick they got to you, your lungs would be ruptured. No air. "They don't happen very often," Knowles went on, "but we have to be prepared.

I nodded. "I see. Since everything in the Moon has to be sealed airtight, you've got to watch out for quakes. These airlocks are to confine your losses." I started visualizing myself as one of the losses.

"Yes and no. The airlocks would limit an accident all right, if there was one-which there won't be, this place is safe. Primarily they let us work on a section of the tunnel at no pressure without disturbing the rest of it. But they are more than that; each one is a temporary expansion joint. You can tie a compact structure together and let it ride out a quake, but a thing as long as this tunnel has to give, or it will spring a leak. A flexible seal is hard to accomplish in the Moon."

"What's wrong with rubber?" I demanded...

Knowles sighed. "...The volatiles that keep rubbers soft tend to boil away in vacuum and the stuff gets stiff. Same for the flexible plastics. When you expose them to low temperature as well they get brittle as eggshells."

"Show him a flexible joint," Knowles directed. "Coming up." We paused half-way down the tunnel and Konski pointed to a ring segment that ran completely around the tubular tunnel. "We put in a flex joint every hundred feet. It's glass cloth, gasketed onto the two steel sections it joins. Gives the tunnel a certain amount of springiness."

"Glass cloth? To make an airtight seal?" I objected.

"The cloth doesn't seal; it's for strength. You got ten layers of cloth, with a silicone grease spread between the layers. It gradually goes bad, from the outside in, but it'll hold five years or more before you have to put on another coat."

From Gentlemen, Be Seated, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Argosy in 1948
Additional resources -

Heinlein also identifies tidal stress as the cause of moonquakes:

"...Remember, the Earth is eighty times the mass of the Moon, so the tidal stresses here are eighty times as great as the Moon's effect on Earth tides."

"Come again," I said. "There isn't any water on the Moon. How can there be tides?"

"You don't have to have water to have tidal stresses. Don't worry about it; just accept it. What you get is unbalanced stresses. They can cause quakes."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Gentlemen, Be Seated
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Gentlemen, Be Seated
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Moonquake-Proof Habitats-related news articles:
  - Moonquake-Proof Moonbases Needed?

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