Rock & Gem



While the United States abandoned its Apollo program of lunar exploratio­n in 1972 a er six manned landings to retrieve samples from the surface of our Moon, China has now embraced the mission. In December 2020, their unmanned Change’e-5 spaceship brought the ƒrst direct lunar samples back to Earth in over 40 years, decades a er the U.S. manned Apollo program and the unmanned Luna missions of the former USSR. Še results are surprising.

Per samples being analyzed by scientists in China and elsewhere, the Moon was still volcanical­ly active billions of years a er samples collected by NASA astronauts had suggested. A news article published by the journal Nature notes that samples collected by the Chinese mission have ignited “a research bonanza” with over a half dozen papers published in recent months and dozens of scientiƒfic presentati­ons and talks.

Samples collected by the Chinese mission include much younger basaltic lavas indicating the moon was volcanical­ly active far longer than previously thought. Še samples have been dated to two billion years ago, whereas Apollo samples clock in at over a billion years older. Šis has raised all sorts of questions as to what was driving that volcanic activity and just how geological­ly active our moon has been in times past. Still more planned Chinese missions hope to address such questions.

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