Chinese experts have discovered a new mineral in lunar samples which were brought from the Moon in 2020 during the Chang’e-5 mission. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the mineral has been named Changesite-(Y) and was found by a research team from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

Wang Xuejun, an official from the CNNC, revealed that the team isolated a single crystalline particle of the mineral from more than 1,40,000 lunar particles in the 1.73 kg rocks retrieved by Chang’e-5. Each of these particles was analysed through modern technological processes, including X-ray diffraction. The expert, during a conference, revealed that the discovered particle is about 10 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth of a human hair and is a phosphate mineral found in lunar basalts.

(Lunar samples being drilled during Chang’e-5 mission on the Moon; Image: China National Space Administration)

Making it the sixth new mineral confirmed on the Moon, the discovery has placed China in the third spot after the US and Russia in the list of countries that achieved this milestone.

Talking about the discovery, Dong Baotong, vice-chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, said as per SMCP that it “provides more basic scientific data for the evaluation and development of lunar resources and has deepened mankind’s knowledge of the moon and the solar system”. The experts also revealed that currently, 98 applicants from 33 research organisations across China are studying four batches of 152 lunar samples totaling over 53 grams after being distributed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

According to CNNC’s Wang, the discovery would provide “fundamental scientific data for future assessment of helium-3 in lunar samples and their exploration”.

About the Chang’e-5 mission

Named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon, the Chang’e-5 mission launched on November 23, 2020, with four components totaling 8,200 kilograms. While two of these components remained in the lunar orbit, the ascent vehicle with a sample collector touched down on December 1 near the Mons Rümker mountain in the Oceanus Procellarum region on the visible side of the Moon.

Soon after its landing, the ascent vehicle unfurled the Chinese flag on the Moon for the first time ever and deployed the sample collector. On December 3, the samples were transferred to the sample collector which carried them to an orbiter in lunar orbit for a journey back to Earth in the same month.