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Early-stage findings of Chang’e-5 probe, which use geological mapping to link ‘exotic’ fragments in the collected samples to features near the landing site, were recently presented by China.
Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soil from the moon had begun its journey back to Earth in December 2020, putting China on course to become the first country to successfully retrieve lunar samples since the 1970s.
Where was it landed?
The Chang’e-5 landing site is located on the western edge of the nearside of the Moon in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum.
This is one of the youngest geological areas of the Moon with an age of roughly two billion years. The materials scraped from the surface comprise a loose soil that results from the fragmentation and powdering of lunar rocks over billions of years due to impacts of various sizes.
1. Ninety percent of the materials collected by
Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its
immediate surroundings, which are of a type
termed ‘mare basalts’.
2. These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker gray areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava.
3. Yet ten percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions, and may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface.
4. Potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material: Researchers have traced these glassy droplets to now extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’ located roughly 230 and 160 kilometers southeast and northeast of the Chang’e-5 landing site. These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.
A successful landing in Inner Mongolia made China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.
The plan was to collect 2 kg (4.4 lbs) of samples, although it has not been disclosed how much was actually gathered.
When was it launched?
The Chang’e-5 was launched on Nov. 24 and a lander vehicle touched down on the moon on Dec. 1. The mission was expected to take around 23 days in total.
The objective of the mission was to bring back lunar rocks, the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the moon in four decades.
About Chang’e-5 probe:
It is an unmanned spacecraft by China. The probe is named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess.
The rocket comprises four parts: an orbiter, a returner, an ascender and a lander.
The Chang’e-5 mission is expected to realize four “firsts” in China’s space history:
1. The first time for a probe to take off from the surface of the Moon.
2. The first time to automatically sample the lunar surface.
3. The first time to conduct unmanned rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit.
4. The first time to return to Earth with lunar soil samples in escape velocity.