China’s lunar sample return mission finds evidence of water twice

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar landing and sampling mission has found water on the moon both through onsite analysis and in materials delivered to Earth.

audacity Chang’e 5 the mission landed on the moon in December 2020, drilling and collecting the youngest lunar samples ever collected. Shortly thereafter, an ascent vehicle took off from the mission’s landing site at Oceanus Procellarum (the Sea of ​​Storms), and the Chang’e 5 samples returned to Earth later in the month. Scientists have now revealed that spectral scanning of the lander’s surface and analysis of samples in labs on Earth both show the presence of water in the area.

“For the first time in the world, the results of laboratory analysis of lunar return samples and spectral data from in situ surveys of the lunar surface have been used together to examine the presence, form and quantity of ‘water’ in lunar samples,” he added. Author Li Chunlai, a planetary scientist at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), said in a statement.

Related: Incredible panorama shows China’s Chang’e 5 moon landing site (photos)

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar lander used this robotic arm to help collect samples from the moon at Mons Rumker in the Moon Storm Ocean on December 1, 2020. (Image credit: CNSA via CCTV)

But the results certainly do not indicate vast reservoirs on the lunar surface. On the contrary, the results show that, on average, rocks and soil on the moon’s surface contain about 30 parts per million of hydroxyl; hydroxyl, along with one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, is the main ingredient of water.

The team also assessed that the water source originated primarily from the moon, contained in a crystalline mineral called apatite. Less hydroxyl than expected seems to come from the solar windthe constant stream of charged particles streaming from the sun and through the solar system, which bombard the moon and implant its surface with particles.

“The results accurately answer the question of water distribution and source characteristics in the Chang’e 5 landing zone and provide ground truth for the interpretation and estimation of water signals. in remote sensing survey data,” Li added.

The results were published in Nature Communication (opens in a new tab) Tuesday (June 14).

Li said future Chang’e missions will also focus on water to build a broader picture of lunar water, and in particular potential water ice at the lunar south pole with Chang’e 7.

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