Moon missions planned by China’s National Space Administration to explore Moon’s South Pole for a new lunar mineral. Read this article for more information.
The Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, a wing of China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) confirmed that they will send three probes for extracting the mineral Changesite-(Y) from the moon. The National Space Administration of China received an approval on Saturday to conduct further exploration of the new mineral discovered during the Chang’e 5 lunar probe in 2020. Three unmanned moon missions in a span of the next 10 years are planned. This will be an initiative under the Chang’e lunar program.
Changesite-(Y) is a crystalline mineral retrieved during the Chang’e 5 moon mission. There are almost 1,40,000 particles retrieved from the 1.731 kg rock. Each particle was seen to be one-tenth thinner than a hair strand (10 micron diameter) and hosts a phosphate mineral primarily found in the moon’s basalts.
The discovery of Changesite-(Y) makes it the sixth new mineral from the moon. China is claimed to be the third nation to discover it after the US and Russia. It is a transparent, colorless, columnar crystalline rock containing helium-3 that can be used as the future fuel on Earth. Some people have defined it to be a diamond like rock that can be of immense help for humanity’s survival in the future.
The Chang’e-7 moon mission will target the South Pole for the rock extraction. There are currently 98 applicants with 33 research organizations studying 152 batches of lunar samples. They in total retain an amount of 53 grams of the lunar mineral and hold evidence for helium-3 assessments.
More about China’s moon mission
The space exploration program of China first began in 2004 and three years later, they send out their first spacecraft. The Chang’e program is named after China’s moon goddess and will be involved in collecting samples from the lunar surface of the moon.
The Chang’e-5 moon mission craft was launched on 23rd November 2020. It had four components of which two components were to remain on the moon. These components were the ascent vehicle and the sample collector that touched the Mons Rümker Mountains of the Oceanus Procellarum region on the lunar surface. This region is located on the side of the moon that we see every day.
On 3rd December, they transferred the samples to the sample collector. The sample collector came back to an orbiter in the lunar orbit and journeyed back to Earth in the same month.
The Chang’e-5 did two orbital movements, two trajectory error fixes, and on 9th September, did a long lunar flyby. The orbiter will do long baseline interferometry (VLB1) to help China with the next set of moon missions. According to the Chinese Space Review as per their National Space Administration, Chang’e-5 might have moved to a lunar distant retrograde orbit (DRO) by January 2022 after entering the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrange point on 15th March 2021. This will be the first aircraft to enter the Lagrange point which is somewhere 1.5 kilometers into the Earth’s orbit. This is the point where the Earth parts from the Sun.
What is the Lagrange point?
It is a point where once an object is sent into space will tend to stay put. A centripetal force is generated from two heavy masses with high gravitational pull. When the forces become equal at a point, it allows an object to move along with them.
China’s other space exploration plans
China in the meanwhile wants to send new probes to the moon in the future as part of its moon missions. It also wishes to build its own space station on the moon in collaboration with Russia and send a space rover to Mars rivaling with the US.