CHINA: Chinese researchers have discovered and named the sixth new lunar mineral, an impressive new accomplishment in their study of the moon.
On Friday in Beijing, the China National Space Administration and the China Atomic Energy Authority jointly announced that the new mineral, Changesite-(Y), had been discovered by scientists at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology from surface samples returned by the country’s Chang’e 5 robotic mission. The International Mineralogical Association’s Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification approved it.
China has become the third country in the world, after the United States and Russia, to have discovered and identified the first lunar mineral, Changesite-(Y), which belongs to the category of lunar merrillite, according to officials from the two agencies during a news conference in Beijing.
According to the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, one of the primary institutes under China National Nuclear Corp., the mineral, which has a single crystalline particle with a diameter of 10 microns, was painstakingly sorted by researchers from more than 140,000-minute particles.
The finding of the new material will aid scientists in their research on the history and physical characteristics of the moon, according to Li Ziying, the institute’s lead scientist for lunar sample research.
He said that because the Chang’e 5 probe’s landing site and sample collection location are considerably more recent than the landing locations of earlier US and Soviet missions, their soil samples may have characteristics differ from those of the US Apollo and Soviet Union’s Luna missions.
Scientists at the institution have evaluated the amount and characteristics of helium 3, an excellent fuel for upcoming nuclear fusion power plants, from the Chang’e 5 samples and the new mineral. Li noted that the findings would make searching for and evaluating lunar resources easier.
Helium-3 reserves on Earth are thought to be between 15 and 20 metric tonnes, while it has been calculated that there may be at least 1 million tonnes of this gas on the moon.
The 23-day Chang’e 5 robotic mission, China’s first lunar sample-return mission and one of its most complex and difficult space missions, was one of the world’s most notable space operations in 2020.
The spacecraft was launched on November 24 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the Hainan Province of South China, and it made a successful moon landing on December 1. After its two Chinese predecessors, Chang’e 3 and 4, it was the third spacecraft in the world’s history to land on the lunar surface in the twenty-first century.
On December 17, 2020, the historic mission carried 1,731 grammes of lunar rocks and dirt back to Earth, making history around 44 years after the last lunar materials were brought back from our closest neighbour.
The China National Space Administration dispersed the first batch of Chang’e 5 lunar samples in July 2021. The samples, which weighed roughly 17.5 grammes, were separated into 21 lots and given to researchers from 31 different scientific projects at 13 different domestic research institutes.