China’s recent lunar sample return mission made history by becoming the first to detect water on the Moon’s surface in real time.
The Chang’E-5 probe, which landed on the Moon on Dec. 1, 2020, found water at its landing site in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum’s basin, according to recently published research in Science Advances.
The Chinese lander studied and brought home samples from the “Mons Rümker” region, a volcanic complex of the Moon that had not been previously explored, NextShark previously reported.
To detect water in real time, the lander used a lunar mineralogical spectrometer, an instrument that measures spectral reflectance in lunar regolith and rocks, reported Science Alert.
Accounting for the intense heat on the Moon’s surface, the researchers used a thermal correction model. The measurements found up to 120 parts per million of water content in the regolith and 180 parts per million in a boulder found near the landing site.
Researchers at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) released the new study in Science Advances on Jan. 7. The study also involved scientists from the National Space Science Center of CAS, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics of CAS and Nanjing University.
In a press release, the researchers noted that the “lower water content of the soil, as compared to the higher water content of the rock fragment, may suggest the degassing of the mantle reservoir beneath the Chang’E-5 landing site.”
A lunar regolith sample that Chang’E 5 brought home upon its return to Earth on Dec. 17, 2020, confirmed the real-time findings, reported Space. The lander’s arrival marked the first time since 1976 that any country has brought rock samples from the Moon.
Prior to Chang’E 5, there were no recorded lunar missions that found water on the Moon’s surface in real time. India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe first detected water on the Moon from orbit in 2009, while samples from NASA’s Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s were found to have water in them decades later.
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