New minerals, we do not discover them every day and even less on the moon. However, this is what a Chinese team has just done thanks to the samples reported in 2020 by the Chang’e 5 probe. The researchers also determined the concentration of helium 3 in the lunar dust and identified the morphological characteristics of the particles of the lunar earth.
Chang’e is originally the goddess of moonmoon in Chinese mythology, but today it is mainly the name of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP). As part of this program, the Chang’e 5 probe was launched on November 23, 2020, the purpose of which was to bring back samples of the moon star, the first from the Soviet probe Luna 24 in 1976. This goal was successfully achieved reached since, on December 16, 2020, the return capsule landed on Earth with 1,731 grams of it mattersit matters lunar, making China the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union to return lunar samples to Earth.
Now here we are almost two years later and these samples have just revealed an interesting surprise: a new mineral, the sixth discovered on the Moon to date.
A new mineral directly from the Moon
The news was announced on September 9, on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival, by the China National Space Administration (CNSA, the Chinese space agency) and the China Space Authority.powerpower atomic (CAEA). This new mineralmineralcalled “changesite- (Y)”, it was discovered by scientists at the Institute for Research on geologygeology Beijing Uranium Company (BRIUG), a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Company (CNNC).
Changesite- (Y) is a phosphate of the merrillite group. According to the Xinhua News Agency, this new mineral is a transparent and colorless columnar crystal. When the research team obtained the first 50 milligrams of lunar samples in July 2021 to conduct mineralogical research, they found traces of a new mineral. However, it failed to obtain the ideal data to determine the mineral, because the particles of the lunar soil were extremely small. The team then requested a second batch of lunar samples, weighing about 15 milligrams.
Among more than 140,000 particles, the researchers isolated a pure monocrystalline particle, with a size of 10 x 7 x 4 micrometersmicrometers, then he decoded its crystal structure and verified that it is a new mineral. This first lunar mineral discovered by China has finally been approved as a new mineral by the Commission on New mineralsmineralsthe nomenclature and classification (CNMNC) of the International Association of Mineralogy (IAM), making the People’s Republic the third country to have discovered a new lunar mineral, after the two superpowers of the Cold War.
From helium-3 to the morphological characteristics of lunar soil particles
Two other important results obtained by CNNC on the samples reported by Change 5Change 5 were announced in the press release.
The first is that China first determined the concentration of helium-3 in moon dust. This type of analysis is not the first for the country since, in 1978, the Chinese Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE), a subsidiary of CNNC, had determined the concentrations of 36 elements from the one gram sample of lunar soil supplied by the United States. . In addition, since the launch of CLEP, CNNC has conducted activation analysis experiments on lunar soil simulants and meteoritesmeteorites to prepare for the analysis of lunar soil samples. The interest of helium-3, however, lies in the fact that it is a potential fuel for nuclear fusionnuclear fusion. The researchers deduced the extraction parameters needed to collect this isotopeisotope from returned samples, providing fundamental scientific data for the evaluation and exploration of lunar resources.
The second is that the morphological characteristics of the lunar soil particles have been identified through extensive and systematic studies, providing the scientific basis for studying how the lunar soil was formed.
Finally, the CNSA announced full approval for its next three lunar missions. Chang’e 6, 7 and 8, which correspond to phase 4 of China’s lunar exploration program and are expected to begin launch as early as 2024, will explore the Moon’s South Pole and begin building a base structure for the International Station. research, second splendor.