International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Chang'e 5 Mission

Mains level: NA

The Europlanet Society has released details from the samples brought back by China’s Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission in December 2020.

Chang’e-5 Lunar Mission

  • The Chang’e-5 lunar mission delivered to Earth nearly 2 kg of rocky fragments and dust from the Moon.
  • It had landed on an area of the Moon (the ‘far side’) not sampled by the American or Soviet missions nearly 50 years ago.
  • It thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth.
  • The rocks are also different from those returned decades ago.

Key findings

  • 90% of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’.
  • These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava.
  • Yet 10% percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions.

What are the exotic compositions?

  • The distinct 10% fragments may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface.
  • Researchers have looked at the potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material.
  • They have traced these glassy droplets to extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’.
  • These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.

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