The main objective of Chang’e 5 on the Moon was to bring back samples of it. Now, China has analyzed the pieces of basalt collected by its mission and has revealed a curiosity: there was volcanic activity much later than we thought. But what exactly have they seen?
The new study, published in the scientific journal Science, concludes that the samples tested are much less old than expected. This is surprising because Chang’e 5 landed at Oceanus Procellarum, about 170 kilometers from Mons Rümker. In this area there were solidified lava from an ancient eruption volcanic. In fact, this place was chosen precisely because it is where expected to be “the youngest basaltic lavas on the Moon”, they indicate in the study.
Basalt collected by Chang’e 5 on the Moon
And when analyzing the samples in the laboratory they have been surprised. Chinese researchers have used a new technique, using lead isotopes and elemental abundance measurements, to dating the surface of the moon through these samples. The result? The basalt collected at the landing site of China’s Chang’e 5 mission is approximately 2 billion years old. This is “later than other known lunar volcanic samples,” as explained in a press release.
China’s Chang’e 5 mission is the first sample return mission since 1970
Moreover, in the study itself they point out that this basalt comes from a volcano that “erupted near the landing site. almost 1 billion years later than the location of any previously measured lunar basalt in the sample collections “brought up so far.
Also, it should be noted that China’s Chang’e 5 mission is the pfirst sample return since 1970. And it was important to analyze them to better understand how was the volcanic activity on the Moon, as we have been able to see.
Although the basalt of Oceanus Procellarum has high concentrations of “potassium, thorium and uranium” and these elements “generate heat through long-lasting radioactive decay”; the study authors they look for other hypotheses. These researchers “affirm that there must have been a source of heat in the region to explain this late volcanic activity,” they indicate in the statement. Therefore, “they require alternative explanations for the longevity of lunar magmatism; such as tidal heating or a mineralogy of different origin that favors a lower melting temperature of the mantle “, they conclude in the investigation.
Therefore, there is still much work to be done to learn more about volcanism on the Moon, as China’s Chang’e 5 mission has shown. And this is the ideal time to do it; before the space agencies set out on the road to Mars and no longer take their eyes off the red planet.