The cratered world of the Moon is the next big target for countries from across the world, as they race to not just explore it but also push forward into deep space. China, at the moment, is among the top competitors in the race and new discovery is acing its chances.
Chinese researchers have discovered a new mineral that has not been found on Earth so far. The diamond-shaped mineral has been found in the samples returned from the Moon by the Chang’e-5 lunar probe and has been aptly named Changesite-(Y). The samples were brought to Earth in 2020.
The discovery was announced by Dong Baotong, vice chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority. It is a phosphate mineral in columnar crystals found in lunar basalt particles. According to China’s Global Times, the mineral was discovered by scientists from Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, who isolated a single crystal particle with a radius of about 10 microns through high-tech means such as X-ray diffraction.
The mineral was discovered from a sample of 140,000 lunar particles.
Changesite-(Y) is the sixth mineral discovered on the Moon by humans, since the dawn of time and the beginning of lunar exploration. The mineral was found in samples retrieved from a region of the Moon, which is about 1 billion years younger than where the US and former Soviet Union retrieved samples.
CHINA’S LUNAR RESEARCH BASE GETS APPROVAL
With the discovery of the new mineral, China is pushing fast its lunar program as the fourth phase of lunar missions has been approved by the Xi Jinping government. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced the approval from the state.
“The production of the Chang’e-6 probe has almost been completed. To better understand the moon, given that Chang’e-4 went to the far side of the moon for the first time, we, after discussions with engineers and scientists, decided to have the Chang’e-6 probe to retrieve samples from the far side of the moon and return them to Earth. So, the samples will be much more valuable,” Liu Jizhong, director of Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center was quoted as saying by CGTN.
The new phase will see China construct a research station on the Moon in the coming decade. Meanwhile, the Chang’e-7 spacecraft will be launched to the moon’s South Pole, followed by Changé-6, which will return the samples from the surface.
China has plans to build a research station on the lunar surface and 2022 could see the mission pick up the pace. Beijing had completed the feasibility studies of the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program in 2021. China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding last year to build the research station.