China to launch first lunar sampling mission in nearly 50 years
Humans have sampled a number of sites on the Moon; American astronauts landed at 6 sites on the moon’s nearside and brought back rocks from those sites, and 3 Soviet Luna missions landed on the lunar nearside and returned small soil samples to the Earth in the 1970s. However, since that time, scientists have recognized there are rocks from the Moon we just don’t have in these collections.
There are rock types that have been identified on the Moon’s surface based on analyses of the spectra of the surface from orbiting spacecraft. There are some rock types that have been identified in lunar meteorites, but with no knowledge of where they came from on the Lunar Surface. All of the rocks picked up by the previous missions were 3.5 billion years old or older, while there are lava flows on the Moon’s surface that appear far younger based on the limited number of craters on them – indicating there is younger volcanism on the Moon. Finally, no one has ever found a sample of the lunar mantle, even though it should be exposed at the bottom of some of the Moon’s craters.
That’s a lot of rocks on the Moon we still haven’t seen, and there’s another issue with our current sample collection – almost all of the Apollo samples were collected pretty close to the Imbrium impact crater, the most recent truly gigantic crater on the Lunar nearside. Therefore, a lot of the samples in our current collection are either fully Imbrium impact debris or are at least contaminated by it.
All that together means…there’s a lot of lunar geology still to be done, and targeted lunar sampling missions would be of extreme scientific interest. Tomorrow, the nation of China is scheduled to launch Chang’e 5, their 5th lunar spacecraft and their first attempt to collect and return samples from the Moon’s surface.
Chang’e 5 is a similar design to previous lunar sampling spacecraft – it has an orbiting spacecraft with a service module, a lander with a descent and ascent stage, and a capsule to bring the samples back through the atmosphere. The lander also includes scientific instruments including a ground penetrating radar and cameras to characterize the landing site.
For scientific purposes, Chang’e 5 is targeted for a site in Oceanus Procellarum, the ocean of storms, which, based on the paucity of craters on the surface, contains some of the youngest lava flows on the Moon, an estimated ~1.5 billion years old. While we can see that these rocks look basaltic in spectral analyses, we can’t tell from orbital spectra whether these rocks might have slightly different mineralogy or chemistry. We can’t analyze trace element abundance or isotope ratios from orbit; is there anything that distinguishes these rocks from the other basaltic rocks on the Moon? Right now, we don’t know because we’ve never sampled anything like these rocks.
Chang’e 5 is solar powered, so it has 14 days of light to land, drill into the surface, collect its samples, and launch back towards Earth. Interestingly, it will also bounce off of Earth’s atmosphere – using the bounce to skip across and slow down prior to landing in Mongolia.
If this mission is successful, China has proposed additional uncrewed sampling missions, including a potential target near the lunar south pole where it is hoped that deeper mantle rocks might be exposed by a gigantic impact crater.
This video from a few years ago shows the proposed spacecraft design, including the lander and various pieces of the orbiters.
After days of trekking, we were happy to head back to town.. but a few min into the drive, we crossed this red stream. It was intriguing, so we decided to follow a small path that went upstream.. and found an abandoned stone house. Wonder what the story is here.
We walked across the mountain and through the mist for about 2 hours not really knowing where we were off to until the sound of the ocean and the seagulls slowly rose in the distance. We followed the sound and finally reached huge cliffs disappearing into the fog. The mist slowly left to reveal thousands of seagulls flying through the most breathtaking landscape I have ever seen...🌊☁️🏔
The simplest kind of fault
When rocks tear and break they can do so in a variety of ways, depending on whether they are being pulled apart (aka extension to geologists), pushed together (compression) or slid alongside each other (strike slip, like the San Andreas) by the tectonic forces affecting the area. This example is a normal fault from Iran, produced by pull apart forces, at least on a local level. The layers pick out very well the block of rock that has dropped between two others, and the two fault lines bordering it. The tectonics in Iran are complex, the main forces are compressive as Arabia separates from Africa and is in a slow motion collision that is closing the Persian Gulf. As the rock is pushed out of the way and uplifted to form mountains such as the Zagros range some regions are twisting and buckling in a rotatory motion, leading to local extensive forces and normal faulting.
#Bolivia absolutely blew my mind. I’d heard of the Salt Flats before but couldn’t visualize the rest of the country. The country is so diverse, you’ve got the highest administrative capital city in the world ( #LaPaz), the largest lake in South America (#LakeTiticaca), the world’s most dangerous road (#YungasRoad), the snow capped mountains of Mik’aya, the Amazon rainforest, the largest salt flats in the world (#Uyuni) and so much more!! As an example this is the incredible #ValleDeLasAnimas - The Valley of the Souls. It’s a 30 minute drive from La Paz. Crazy to think something like this is right in the city! After the trip we were so inspired by the destination, and how little we knew of it before going, that we decided to make our first ever Beautiful Destinations Guide.
Can’t wait for Summer vibes to come back? Watch this beauty and feel the breeze 🌊. Tag someone you want to be here with 😍💙. Negritta Mykonos is the name of this wonderful place located in Little Venice.
A shrinking supercell somewhere in the Plains. Chased this beast for hours. When I finally let it go even the backside looked cool. Found a foreground tree, started this timelapse, and cracked open a beer.