Thursday, July 7, 2022

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar lander finds water on the moon, but not as much as they hoped

HomespaceChina’s Chang’e 5 lunar lander finds water on the moon, but not...

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar landing and sampling mission detected both on-site and carried samples of water on the moon.

In December of 2020, the intrepid Chang’e 5 mission landed on the moon, where it drilled for and obtained the youngest lunar samples ever collected. Chang’e 5 samples were returned to Earth when an ascent vehicle launched from the mission’s Oceanus Procellarum landing site later that month (the Sea of Storms). Recent announcements by scientists imply that a spectrum scan of the surface by the lander and laboratory examination of samples show the existence of water in the region.

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“For the first time in the world, laboratory analysis of lunar return samples and spectral data from in-situ lunar surface surveys were used together to examine the presence, form, and amount of ‘water’ in lunar samples,” said co-author Li Chunlai, a planetary scientist at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC).

The findings, however, do not indicate the presence of significant reserves on the lunar surface. Rather, the data indicate that the moon’s rocks and soil contain around 30 parts per million of hydroxyl on average; hydroxyl, which consists of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, is the main component of water.

The researchers also established that the majority of the moon’s water exists in the form of apatite, which is a crystalline mineral. The solar wind, a constant stream of charged particles moving from the sun across the solar system that bombards the moon and implants particles on its surface, appears to have supplied less hydroxyl than anticipated.

“The results provide a ground truth for the interpretation and estimate of water signals in remote sensing survey data and provide an accurate answer to the topic of the distribution features and source of water in the Chang’e 5 landing zone,” Li explained.

The findings were published in Nature Communications on Tuesday (June 14).

According to Li, future Chang’e missions would concentrate on water in order to establish a more complete picture of lunar water, with Chang’e 7 concentrating on potential water ice at the lunar south pole.

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