With this, China has become the third country to discover the presence of a new mineral in lunar sediments.
China is one of the rising countries in space exploration and has now become the third country in the world to discover a new mineral on the Moon. The element was extracted from samples of lunar rock and dust brought to Earth by the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) as well as the China Atomic Energy Authority recently announced a major discovery on the natural satellite. Dong Baotong, vice chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority, told a press conference that researchers found a new mineral in the lunar rock samples brought to Earth by Chang’e-5. He added that the new mineral was named Changesite-(Y).
With this, China has become the third country to discover the presence of a new mineral in lunar sediments, behind only Russia and the United States. In turn, Changesite-(Y) is the sixth mineral that humans have found on the Earth’s natural satellite.
Extraction of the new lunar mineral
The Asian giant is one of the nations that has invested the most in lunar exploration. In 2020 it launched its Chang’e-5 lunar mission, which became the first Chinese mission to bring back to Earth a series of rock samples from the natural satellite.
By examining the lunar dust and rocks using state-of-the-art technology including X-ray diffraction, the researchers were finally able to separate a crystal particle with a radius of 10 micrometers from the total of 140,000 lunar particles that make up the total sample. In this way, they were able to decipher the structure of the mineral whose size is 10 times smaller than that of a human hair.
Named Changesite-(Y), it is a phosphate mineral found in lunar basalts. The Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association has already added it as a new mineral.
Phosphate is the natural source of phosphorus, an element that can also be found on our earth. It is a crucial element, as it is responsible for providing a large part of the nutrients that plants need for their growth. This is why researchers believe that the discovery of Changesite-(Y) could help in understanding whether or not it is possible to grow plants on the lunar surface.
The next step in China’s lunar exploration will be to establish a constellation of satellites around the Moon to provide communication and navigation services for upcoming lunar travel.
Story originally published in Spanish in EcoosferaPodría interesarte