60-year-old moon mystery may have finally been solved, claims China

60-year-old moon mystery may have finally been solved, claims China

China named the landing site of its Chang'e-4 lunar probe "Statio Tianhe" -after the Chinese name for the Milky Way Galaxy for the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon last month.

"But since the lunar crust is very thick, and there has been no volcanic activity and plate movement on the Moon for billions of years, it's hard to find materials from the lunar mantle on the surface", Li said.

This image captured by Chang'E 4 lander shows the landscape near the landing site.

On January 3, 2019, Chang'E-4 safely landed on the floor of Von Karman crater and then released Yutu-2 rover. CE-4 collected spectral data samples from the flat stretches of the basin, as well as from other, smaller but deeper impact craters within the basin.

Astronomers believe a magma opening covered the Moon's surface in early history meaning minerals would have floated to the top.

"Understanding the composition of the lunar mantel is critical for testing whether a magma ocean ever existed, as postulated", said corresponding author LI Chunlai, a professor of the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC).

"Geological context suggests that these materials were excavated from below the SPA floor by the nearby 72-km-diameter Finsen impact crater event, and transported to the landing site", the researchers write.

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Studying the Moon's mantle could give scientists new insights into how a large space body forms when the mantle doesn't interact with water, as it did on Earth - and could help understand how other celestial bodies formed as well.

The country's space agency claims to have found the first signs of lunar mantle material available for scientific study.

But mission scientists have found the impact was so great it broke through the Moon's crust revealing the lunar mantle layer below, BBC reported.

Based on the initial observations from Yutu-2's Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer, a team led by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences inferred the presence of low-calcium pyroxene and olivine minerals, which may originate from the upper mantle, on the surface.

The findings offer a window into both the ancient Moon as well as ancient Earth.

The rover will need to explore more of its landing site to understand the mantle's composition, but the first mission to the far side of the moon is already gathering crucial data.

Additionally, most of the samples taken by missions to the near side of the Moon seem to contain traces from some cataclysmic collision that created the near side of the Moon's Mare Imbrium (the left eye, if you imagine the Moon, viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, as a face).

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