According to a research paper that was recently published in Nature Communications, a Chinese robotic explorer spots new type of moon rock in one of the dim-lit lunar basins.
Researchers said that the area was relatively young, so the discovery might soon help them better understand the moon’s history.
Study authors noted that the newly found space rock is a type of volcanic rock that resembles none of the samples collected by previous sample return missions including Soviets’ Luna and U.S.A.’s Apollo missions.
Researchers also said that the composition of the new space rock is different from that of lunar meteorites, too.
Since both NASA and Russia have been focusing in recent years on more distant objectives such as asteroids, planet Mars, Pluto or Venus, none of the two nations has invested in a sample return mission to the moon in the last four decades. So, what we really know about our celestial neighbor is based on decades-old rock samples and data taken from orbit.
This is why researchers believe that there’s is more about the moon that is yet to be discovered. After nearly four decades, the Chinese ventured to put their first robotic lander on the moon, which was dubbed Chang’e-3 (CE-3). China’s first soft landing on the lunar surface happened Dec. 2013, when the CE-3 lander, which deployed the Yutu rover shortly after the landing, achieved the historic feat.
Although it encountered some technical difficulties, Yutu, which translates as the ‘Jade Rabbit’ in Chinese, managed to gather important data on the moon. For instance, it explored and sampled the rocks in the Imbrium basin, a vast lava floodplain and one of the largest impact craters in our solar system, which can be seen with the naked eye by ground observers on Earth.
In the basin, Yutu’s instruments analyzed the lunar soil in various wavelengths to provide a better understanding on the moon subsurface. Scientists believe that, because Imbrium basin is relatively young, the soil was less likely to be contaminated by other debris on the moon.
Scientists currently plan to figure out how the lunar subsurface really looked like before the impact. And they are especially interested in the solidified lava which gave birth to rocks called basalts.
Yutu found a type of basalt that contains high amounts of the mineral olivine and titanium dioxide. Researchers believe that the rock formed within the huge magma ocean that once filled the place.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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