China claims it found a bizarre substance on the far side of the Moon
The gel-like substance was found sitting inside a small crater
The Space race has been reignited with many countries planning missions to the Moon. China and the United States are the front runners in the race (infographic below). As per the fate of the recent Indian mission Chandrayaan 2 — at an altitude of 2.1km, Vikram lander went dark and all data communications were lost. Considering the loss of communication just before the final descent, it is safe to assume that the spacecraft was lost and the mission has failed.
The most audacious attempt was the successful landing of China’s Chang’e 4 mission to explore the yet unchartered territory of the dark side of the moon. Ever since the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program began in 2004, China’s space agency, CNSA, has launched a series of lander, rover & orbiter missions by the names of Chang’e 1–4. Of these, Chang’e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since 1976.
But the country is banking on the success of its current mission to reinforce its place as a dominant space power. Chang’e 4 made a soft landing on Jan. 03 this year after taking off on Dec. 18, 2018. The next lunar mission in line is Chang’e 5 — scheduled for later this year, which is expected to bring lunar samples back from its trip. The United States, Japan & Russia are all planning to send moon landers apart from private endeavors like SpaceX.
The “dark side” of the moon has been mired in mystery as no one has attempted to go there before the Chinese mission. Besides conducting radio astronomy experiments and test whether plants can grow in the moon’s gravity, Chang’e 4 will study in detail the “dark side” of the moon. The dark side is also considered a great place to study the universe using radio waves, as it removes a large amount of interference that Earth-bound and orbiting telescopes suffer from.
The mission’s rover Yutu-2, has been steadily studying the geology of the lunar surface on the far side, ever since its landing in January. On July 28, a Change’4 team member spotted a small crater from the main camera of the rover which contained material with a strange color & luster. The gel-like substance was unlike one has ever seen before.
The mission scientists have been unable to offer any explanation to the strange material found but outside researchers are suggesting that it could be melted glass created from the high pressure & temperature meteorites impact on the surface of the moon. Remnants of something similar can be found here on Earth as well.
There have been other strange discoveries on Lunar surface before this one— in 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts found orange-colored soil which was eventually concluded to be a product of an explosive volcanic eruption 3.64 billion years ago. But then again, it is the first-ever mission to the other side of the moon. We may be in for more surprises.
Whatever the case may be, discoveries like these will lead to a definite conclusion to the burning question of water ice existence on the moon and how best to harvest them.