China’s first soft landing on the surface of Earth’s Moon brought alongside it a rather stunning discovery, as the Chinese lunar rover finds a peculiar new type of rock. The rock in question builds upon the findings from almost 40 years ago when the human race explored the surface of our Moon through Russian and American lunar missions.
The unmanned rover dubbed Jade Rabbit, or in its native language Chang’e-3 Yutu, landed in the Mare Imbrium crater, one of the youngest regions on Moon’s surface, roughly 2.96 billion years old. Besides the basalt formations found by previous expeditions, the lunar rover found a new type of volcanic rock, still partly basaltic like the ones brought back on Earth by the Apollo and Luna missions, but with slight variations in concentration.
The Jade Rabbit has started its mission back in 2013, with the launch of its carrier rocket. Later that same year, it was deployed on the surface of the Moon but remained immobile for extended periods of time due to various problems encountered along the way. Even though it did not move, the Chinese rover still managed to send information back on Earth, dispelling the fear that it was destroyed during the landing process.
The reason why this discovery is so important for planetary scientists is because of its ability to disperse some of the mysteries surrounding the Moon’s formation. By analyzing the different concentrations of titanium and iron, geologists are able to somewhat reconstruct the flow of lava which covered a part of the lunar surface. By gaining a clearer picture of our Moon’s planetary evolution, we can apply these theories to other moons across our solar system, for instance, some of the 63 moons orbiting Saturn.
Scientists are still unable to come to a decisive response when asked how exactly our Moon came to be. One of the theories that try to explain what happened is called the Giant Impact Hypothesis. It claims that our Earth was once very close to a Mars-sized planetoid called Theia. Keep in mind that this happened over 4.6 billion years ago, our Moon having the presumed age of 4.5 billion years. But a sudden change in gravity or other massive scale phenomenon brought the two planetoids together, impacting one another, with the bigger chunk left behind eventually becoming the planet we know and love today and a piece of the debris creating the Moon.
By gaining information about the exact geological structure of the Moon, researchers will be able to say where exactly did these rocks come from. Be it either from Theia or just a lump of rock created by a massive asteroid impact, it is necessary that we as a human race know exactly why the Moon is up there, as well as other details like the composition and exact age.
With the news that the Chinese lunar rover finds a peculiar new type of rock, the odds that scientists will be able to unveil the mysteries surrounding our Moon in the coming years grow are great to say the least. By sending more lunar probes, and even manned space missions, information regarding Moon’s creation might be just around the corner.