just discovered a new mineral on the moon

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More than four decades after Luna 24, the last mission to return lunar dust and rock samples to Earth, China reported the success of its Chang’e 5 mission in late 2020. Nearly two years later, Beijing has announced the discovery of a new mineral thanks to these samples: Changesite-(Y). The Asian country thus becomes not only the third to bring rocks from the Moon but also the third country to announce an achievement of this type thanks to the samples.

Story of a going and a return.
The Chang’e probe departed from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on November 23, 2020 to land on the Moon on December 1. It landed in the Oceanus Procellarum, the Ocean of Storms, in the lunar northern hemisphere. The site had been chosen for its relatively young geological age, at least compared to the places where the United States and the Soviet Union had conducted their surveys.

The sample collection mission had to be brief before the lunar night froze the probe. On December 16, the return ship had arrived on Earth with 1.73 kilograms of samples. The new finding has been made from the analysis of basaltic rocks taken from these samples, and has been carried out by a team from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG) according to The Chinese agency Xinhua has explained.

Chang'e 5, the Chinese mission that collected lunar samples, is returning to the Moon, and we don't know exactly why

Tiny stones.
Were 50 milligrams of these samples that arrived at the BRIUG laboratories in July of last year for analysis. They found traces of this new mineral in them, but they were not enough to obtain sufficient information about it.

An extra 15 milligrams was enough for the team to complete their task. Among the 140,000 particles that made up this sample, the BRIUG researchers found a piece of 10x7x4 microns, finer than a human hair, which confirmed the mineral nature of this substance.

The new mineral has been named Changesite-(Y). The name is derived from the Chinese deity associated with the Moon, Chang’e, which also gives its name to the probes of the Asian giant’s lunar exploration program. The mineral, as described by its discoverers, is a colorless, transparent, column-shaped crystal.

Know our satellite to know our planet.
The new finding can help researchers to better understand the environment of our planet and the history of the system it forms together with its satellite. Li Ziying, who led the BRIUG team in charge of the investigation stood out the importance of the discovery in the study of lunar minerals, evolution of our satellite and for the exploration of deep space.

Lunar resources have generated a lot of interest to space agencies. Not just resource utilization on-site will be one of the keys to space exploration in the future, but space mining is attracting more and more attention, both from the public and private spheres.

The future of the Chang’e.
The five Chang’e probes have formed the first three phases of China’s lunar exploration. Ahead is still the fourth and for now the last phase. It will be made up of three new probes, Chang’e 6, 7 and 8. This phase should begin with the first launch in 2024, and will have a double focus: the use of resources on-site and the establishment of a permanent human presence on the satellite.

In this context, China and Russia recently signed a collaboration agreement for the creation of a robotic lunar base that they will call the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). The offer to collaborate in this initiative is open to the international community, but the US veto of aerospace agreements with China and the current sanctions against Russia seem insurmountable obstacles to the expansion of this agreement.

Image | China National Nuclear Corporation

More than four decades after Luna 24, the last mission to return lunar dust and rock samples to Earth, China…

More than four decades after Luna 24, the last mission to return lunar dust and rock samples to Earth, China…

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