China claims discovery of a new mineral on the moon for the first time

China becomes third to make such a claim, after US and Russia.
Baba Tamim
Representational 3D illustration: Satellite traveling along the Moon's surface.
Representational 3D illustration: Satellite traveling along the Moon's surface.

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For the first time, Chinese scientists have claimed the discovery of a new mineral on the Moon, making China the third country to do so.

During a press conference on Friday, Dong Baotong, vice chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), announced the name of the new mineral as Changesite-(Y), according to a report published by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

"This is a major scientific achievement China has made in the field of space science," said Baotong.

"It is also a powerful exploration of cross-industry and cross-professional cooperation between nuclear and aerospace."

Changesite-(Y) is a phosphate mineral in columnar crystal found in lunar basalt particles.

From the 140,000 lunar sample particles, researchers from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology identified, analyzed, and interpreted a single crystal particle with a radius of around 10 microns using sophisticated techniques, including X-ray diffraction.

China's Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification (CNMNC) of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA) has classified Changesite-(Y) as a new mineral.

It is the sixth new mineral identified by humans on the Moon, and China has joined the US and Russia as the three countries in the world to do so.

In 2020, China's Chang'e-5 mission returned lunar samples to Earth for the first time in over 40 years, weighing roughly 1,731 grams. The newly discovered lunar mineral was also retrieved from the Moon.

Researchers from several agencies, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Natural Resources, participated in the study of Moon samples.

The discoveries they have made so far have significant ramifications for our understanding of the Moon's formation and evolution, as well as our efforts to determine the most efficient way to use its resources.

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Chang'e-5 mission

Named after the Moon goddess in Chinese mythology, the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program's fifth lunar exploration mission, Chang'e 5, is also the country's first sample-return mission to the Moon. The mission was launched into space on November 23, 2020.

On March 15, 2021, the Chang'e 5 (CE-5) orbiter was successfully grabbed by the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point, making it the first Chinese spacecraft to orbit the L1 Lagrange point, which lies 1.5 million kilometers inside the Earth's orbit, partway between the Sun and the Earth.

The orbiter entered an orbit for approximately six months while it was around 936,700 kilometers away from Earth at the time of capture. Its mission performed two orbital movements and two trajectory correction maneuvers throughout the 88-day voyage to L1. And on September 9, 2021, the orbiter conducted a prolonged lunar flyby in an extended mission.

The Chang'e 5 orbiter may conduct very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) tests to aid Chinese preparations for the next phase of China's Lunar Exploration Program. According to The Space Review, the Chang'e 5 orbiter may have transitioned to a lunar distant retrograde orbit (DRO) by January 2022. The Space Review's analysis was based on claims made by the Chinese government and its academics'.

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