Chinese mission uncovers secrets of Moon’s structure
China’s Yutu-2 rover, which landed on the unseen side of the Silver Globe as part of the Chang’e-4 mission, likely reached material from the Moon’s mantle. The discovery could help scientists determine details about the formation and evolution of our natural satellite.
Chang probe’The e-4 belonging to China’s National Space Agency landed on the side of the Moon invisible from Earth on January 3 this year. The lander and its rover settled in the Von K craterármáOn, whichóry is part of a structure called the South Pole-Aitken Basin, one of the largest known impact structures in the entire Solar System and the oldest on the Moon.
The South Pole-Aitken basin has a diameter of 2,500 kilometersów and a depth of 13 kilometersów. Scientists believe it is a key area that theóry may provide answers to some important questions about the early history of the Silver Globe. The Chang mission itself’The e-4 takes its name from the Chinese goddess of the Moon. The mission is expected to last about 12 months.
The Moon, like the Earth, has a crust, mantle and nucleus. The crust is composed of silicatesóin aluminum or plagioclaseów, but the composition of the mantle has remained a mystery, and neither the American Apollo program nor the Soviet missions from the Luna program have managed to unlock the shroud of this mystery.
In the 1970s, the idea emerged that in the Moon’s early history its surface was covered by an ocean of magma. As the ocean began to cool, lighter minerals floated to the top, while heavier minerals sank deeper and deeper. The top was covered with a layer of basalt surrounding a mantle of dense mineralsów, such as olivine and pyroxene.
The impact, whichóhe traces of olivine, the largest crater in the Solar System, was so strong that fragments of the mantle were likely to have been brought to the surface of the. Now Chinese researchers in the pages of the journal „Nature” report that measurements made by the Yutu-2 rover indicate minerals that theóre may come from the Moon’s mantle.
– Understanding the composition of the lunar mantle is key to testing whether an ocean of magma ever existed on the Moon, as once postulated – said Professor LI Chunlai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. – It may pomóc us to better understand the thermal and magmatic evolution of the Silver Globe – acknowledged, and added that understanding the evolution of the Moon could in turn lead to a deeper understanding of the evolution of Earth and other rocky planets in the Solar System.
As part of the Chang mission’e-4 collected spectral data of the równin a massive impact structure on the Moon, as well as other, smaller but deeper cratersóin the impactors that make up the South Pole Basin – Aitken. Scientists expected to find large amounts coming from the Moon’s mantle, but instead found traces of olivine, the head of theówn an important component of the górna layer of Earth’s mantle.
– The lack of large amounts of olivine inside the South Pole Basin structure – Aitken remains a mystery. Could it be that earlier predictions of an olivine-rich lunar mantle were incorrect? – noted Li.
Not quite. As it turns out, more tracesóIn olivine appeared in próbkach from deeper cratersów. According to one concept, the mantle consists of róin parts made of olivine and pyroxene and is not dominated by one mineral or the other.
This study is just the beginning. The Yutu-2 rover will need to get more próbek to better understand the geology of its landing site. It will also need to collect much more spectral data to confirm its initial findings and fully understand the composition of the lunar mantle.