China has discovered a new mineral from the Moon after sifting through the first lunar samples gathered in 46 years.
The new mineral, Changesite-(Y), named after China’s lunar exploration project Chang’e Project, was included among the 140,000 lunar sample particles studied by the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology through high-tech procedures like X-ray diffraction.
Described as a phosphate mineral in columnar crystal with a radius of about 10 microns, Changesite-(Y) is the sixth mineral retrieved from the lunar surface and the first mineral discovered by China. The New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association confirmed it as a new mineral on Friday.
“We brought back 1,731 grams of lunar samples from the Chang’e-5 probe. And through joint research, we’ve achieved substantial scientific results,” said Liu Jizhong, director of China’s Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center.
Following the discovery, China became the third country to bring back a new mineral from the Moon to Earth for the first time in 46 years after the United States and Russia. The former Soviet Union brought back the last lunar sample from its Luna 24 lunar probe in 1976.
The mineral, which is believed to be about 1 billion years younger than the ones retrieved by the U.S. and Russia, was collected from Oceanus Procellarum, a basalt area on the Moon formed by lunar volcanic eruptions billions of years ago.
Liu noted that of the 1,731 grams of lunar samples, more than 50 grams have already been distributed to other scientists for further studies.
“So far, we’ve distributed the Chang’e-5 lunar samples for four times. The fifth one has been approved and will be carried out soon,” Liu said. “For the previous four, we organized a team of scientists to strictly evaluate the applications and research.”
“The moon is also a very good place for experiments because of its low gravity, zero atmosphere, as well as magnetic fields. It is also a transfer station for us for deep-space exploration,” Liu further noted.
Besides the new mineral, scientists also found traces of the element helium-3 in the lunar soil samples. The rare element has fascinated many scientists for its potential use as a nuclear fusion fuel source.
The Chang’e-5 probe also brought back 4.4 pounds of lunar rock samples from its mission in December 2020. The rocks were reportedly collected from the volcanic complex “Mons Rümker” region.
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