China’s Chang’e 4 far-side lunar mission has revealed unprecedented details about the moon’s far side, beaming back to earth a plethora of images of the landscape of the far side along the way.
But the Chinese lander and rover were not sent to the far side of the moon just to take images of their surroundings, the robotic mission was sent to the moon to study, in a unique way, the details of the moon’s far side.
Chang’e 4 was launched on 7 December 2018 and entered lunar orbit on 12 December 2018, before landing on the Moon’s far side in a historic mission. Change’4 is the follow-up mission to Chang’e 3, the first Chinese successful moon landing.
The Chang’e 4 mission, like its predecessors, are named and the Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the Moon.
Mystery Gel-like substance
China’s Yutu-2 rover stumbled on the mysterious substance during the eighth lunar days.
The unexpected discovery caused confusion in the scientific community promoting mission experts to postpone all other explorative driving schedules of the rover, to instead focus its scientific instruments in order to try and understand what the mysterious material really is.
After all, you don’t come across a weird, alien, gel-like material on the moon’s far side.
On July 25, the Chinese-built rover was carefully making its way across a landscape littered with smaller impact craters, guided by the planning of drivers on Earth, controlling the robotic explorer from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
According to Yutu-2‘s “navigation diary,” on July 28, the researchers were preparing to put the rover into its usual midday sleep, to protect it from hazardous temperature and radiation from the sun.
The team of scientists was checking the images the rover had snapped using its main camera and noted a small crater that seemed to contain material with color and glow very different from that of the surrounding lunar surface.
It was an exciting find, so the researchers in charge of the rover called in lunar scientists. The team eventually decided to postpone Yutu-2’s plans to the west and decided to make the rover drive towards the crater in order to study the mysterious material.
Identifying the mysterious material
Using its state-of-the-art obstacle avoidance cameras, the miniature rover got to the crater and studied the mysteriously colored material and its surroundings with is Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometers (VNIS instrument) which identifies the light reflected by the materials to expose its nature.
Although we still have no idea what exactly the material is the Chinese rover spotted, the scientists have revealed its a gel-like substance and it has a very unusual color.
Even though a scientific explanation has still not been presented, some researchers argue that the mysterious material may be a king of belt-glass generated by the numerous meteorites impacting the far side of the moon.
The discovery is certainly a surprising one since we know very little about the far side of the moon. however, it isn’t the first surprising discovery made on the lunar surface. During NASA’s Apollo missions, specifically, Apollo 17, Astronaut and geologist Garrison Schmitt encountered strange, orange-colored soil near the Taurus-Littrow landing site. It was later concluded by scientists that the moon’s orange soil was created after a massive volcanic eruption on the moon, around 3.64 billion years ago.