The Chinese space agency has found a new mineral on the Moon

CNSA researchers have identified a new mineral reported by the Chang’e 5 probe.

China continues its spectacular progress in the field of space. In addition to the advances of its impressive space station, the country of Xi Jinping also presents spectacular discoveries on the side of planetary sciences; the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has just announced the discovery of brand new material on the Moon.

The mineral in question was discovered in a sample collected by the probe Chang’e 5 ; he was also baptized Changesite — (Y), in her honor. These 1731 grams of lunar dust were repatriated to Earth on December 17, 2020 during a very impressive mission, the very first to bring back material from our satellite since Apollo 17 in… 1972.

© China National Space Administration, China Atomic Energy Authority

A well-executed mission

To achieve this, Chang’e 5 loaded the samples onto a second small vehicle. The latter was returned directly to orbit of the Moon. It was then picked up by a specialized orbiter which transferred its contents to a capsule before heading back to Earth. Shortly before his arrival, he released his loot in a very special orbit. This allowed the capsule to perform a smooth atmospheric re-entry. She ended up falling back in the middle of Mongolia, where she was picked up by CNSA troops.

Its collection mission now complete, the machine took advantage of the Earth’s atmosphere to slow down and readjust its orbit before returning to its final destination, the Lagrange point L1. It now serves as a test platform to allow engineers to plan future missions to observe the Sun.

© CNSA

The first samples were distributed to researchers from July 2021. And since then, Chinese researchers have continued to comb through this scientific treasure. According to the China Daily which reported this discovery, it was particularly meticulous work. They had to manually isolate a tiny crystalline fragment among 140,000 other particles. A pain in the ass, knowing that the sample from Changesite — (Y) measured about 10 microns, five to ten times smaller than the slice of an average hair.

The discovery has since been certified by the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association, an institution responsible for validating these finds. Changesite — (Y) is now classified in the merrillite family. It is a phosphate and calcium based mineral found in many extraterrestrial rocks.

Meanwhile, Artemis is chomping at the bit.

China therefore officially becomes the third nation in the world to have identified a new mineral on our satellite. So far, only the United States and Russia can claim this feat. ” It is a major scientific success », rejoices Dong Baotong, vice-president of the China Atomic Energy Authority with whom the CNSA collaborated within the framework of this work.

© NASA/Joel Kowsky

The researchers involved in this work hope that this discovery will enrich their knowledge of the formation of the Moon and its evolution. This sample could also hold clues about the best way to exploit the Moon’s resources.

The contingent may be able to make new discoveries of this kind on the occasion of Artemis 3; this mission must bring astronauts back to the Moon around 2025, and they will certainly not return empty-handed. But for that, it would already be necessary for the Space Launch System, the centerpiece of this program, to finally manage to take off to launch the Artemis 1 mission…

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