Phase 4 Moon Mission Approved | Chinese Scientists Discover New Mineral

Changesite-Y was found in soil samples taken from the moon. Chinese scientists have found and identified the sixth lunar mineral, a remarkable feat in their moon research.

China will launch three unmanned missions on the moon in the next 10 year as it seeks out to compete with the US in space exploration.

According to state-backed CCTV, China’s National Space Administration (its equivalent to NASA) was approved to send three orbiters on the moon under the Chang’e lunar program.

This announcement was made a day after China announced it had discovered a new lunar material through samples taken by the Chang’e-5 mission. It was named Changesite-Y by the state-run Xinhua news agency. It is a type-of transparent colorless columnar crystal. It is believed to contain helium-3. This is an isotype which has been speculated as a potential future source of energy.

Credit: China National Space Administration, China Atomic Energy Authority

On Friday, International Mineralogical Association and its Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification certified the new mineral Changesite-Y that was found by the Chinese scientist’s team at the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology – announced by The China National Space Administration and the China Atomic Energy Authority

Officials from both agencies stated that Changesite-Y, which is a lunar merrillite category, was the first lunar mineral to be identified and discovered by Chinese scientists. This makes China, the third country in the world, following the United States and Russia.

Researchers manually separated the mineral from over 140,000 small particles to create a single-crystalline crystal particle. Then, the researchers used advanced mineralogical techniques to analyze the material. According the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (one of the largest institutes under China National Nuclear Corp), the mineral was analyzed using a variety of advanced mineralogical methods.

Li Ziying, the chief scientist for lunar sample research at the institute explained that the discovery and use of this new mineral will aid researchers in their investigations on the history of the moon’s physical characteristics.

He stated that the history of the area where the Chang’e 5 probe landed to collect the samples is older than the landing sites for previous US and Soviet missions. Therefore, the characteristics of soil samples collected there may be different from those from Apollo or Luna.

The institute has also tested the new mineral and measured the characteristics of helium-3 from Chang’e 5 samples. This fuel is ideal for future nuclear power plants. Li stated that the results will be useful in the exploration and assessment of the lunar resource.

Experts estimate that there are approximately 15 to 20 metric tonnes of helium-3 in the Earth, which can be used by humans. However, the lunar reserve could contain at least 1,000,000 tons.

The 23-day Chang’e 5 robot mission, which was one of the most significant space activities of 2020, was China’s first lunar sampling-return mission. It was also one of the most complex and difficult space missions.

The spacecraft was launched from South China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center on November 24, and successfully landed on December 1. After its Chinese predecessors, Chang’e 3 and 4, it was the third spacecraft to land on the moon’s surface. It returned 1,731g of lunar soil and rocks to Earth on December 17, 2020. This historic feat came 44 years after the last lunar materials were brought back from our closest celestial neighbour.

In July 2021, the first Chang’e 5 lunar sample was distributed by China National Space Administration.

The 17.5g samples were broken up into 21 lots, and given to scientists working on 31 scientific research projects by 13 domestic research organisations.

China approves Phase 4 moon mission with international lunar research station

China’s fourth phase of its lunar exploration program has been approved by the state and is progressing smoothly, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). This announcement came after the country announced the discovery of Changesite-Y on September 9.

A model of the Chang’e-5 probe (Credit: China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition)

The Phase-4 lunar mission will consist of the Chang’e-6 and -7 missions, and -8. According to some rough ideas, these missions will take place at least 10 years to complete. Now the scientist’s team will be working hard to explore the south pole region of the moon so that they are able to make a basic structure that later help them to build a suitable International Lunar Station

The Chang’e-6 will be used to collect samples from the far side moon and return them back to Earth.

“The production of Chang’e-6 has nearly been completed. After the Chang’e-4’s first trip to the far side, engineers and scientists discussed the possibility of using the Chang’e-6 probe as a means to better understand the moon. The Chang’e-6 will be able to retrieve samples from that side and bring them back to Earth. According to Liu, the samples will be more valuable,” Liu explained to China Media Group (CMG).

CNSA states that the South Pole exploration will be done by Chang’e-6 & -7. Chang’e-8 will contain key technologies for lunar surface testing and preliminary exploration to construct the ILRS.

China’s lunar exploration program 4th Phase (Credit: China National Space Administration)

Liu stated that the Chang’e-7 probe was in development.

There are many technologies that must be used and we have to study the energy of the moon. We face many challenges. We have a great team and our past experiences, so I am confident that we can succeed.

China’s lunar probe missions

From 2077-19, there are a total of four missions were launched within the lunar mission (named by the Chinese goddess of the moon)

(Credit: Getty / File photo)

The Chang’e-1, China’s first lunar probe was launched in October 2007. It was a lunar orbiting spacecraft that traveled 200 km above the moon. It was the first step in China’s ambitious three-step mission to the moon.

The Chang’e-2 probe was launched in 2010 and traveled over 100 million km from Earth. It set a record for longest Chinese spacecraft flight.

2013 was the Chang’e-3’s first soft-landing on the Moon by China. The Yutu rover also drove on the Moon.

The Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the far side the moon in 2018, making it the first to do so.

In 2020, the Chang’e-5 probe arrived on Earth with 1,731g of samples from Moon. This marked the end of China’s first attempt at obtaining and returning samples from the Moon.

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