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Chinese scientists have discovered a new type of basalt on the Moon

Thanks to data collected by the mission of Chang’e-3, scientists from Shandong University have discovered a previously unknown type of basalt, rich in minerals olivine and ilmenite.

Chang’e-3, an unmanned lunar lander carrying the Yutu rover, touched down the Moon surface in December 2013.

The purpose of the mission was – to investigate the composition of lunar rocks in the vicinity of Imbrium basin, the third largest of the Lunar Mares, which was formed more than 3 billion years ago as a lava lake flooded a large impact crater.

Not far from the old crater there is a comparably young impact crater Zi Wei (“Purple Palace”), covered with a thin layer of regolith resembled the composition of underlying basalt bedrocks, enabling scientists to investigate the process of lunar rocks formation.

In December 2015 the scientific journal Nature Communications publishedan article with the results of the mission, informing the public about high levels of iron and intermediate titanium concentrations in the basaltic source rocks of the crater rim, which indicates the presence of olivine and ilmenite at the same time. One of the authors, Alian Wang, argues that olivine usually crystallizes early and the titanium-rich ilmenite crystallizes late, so these minerals are not commonly found in the same rocks.

Unexpected results obtained by two spectrometers of the Yuytu rover suggest that the Moon basalts are not homogenized.

These data are completely at odds with information gained by the other lunar missions: the American Apollo (1969-1972) and the Soviet Luna (1970-1976), their results showed either a high titanium content or low to very low titanium; intermediate values were missing.

The scientists are eager to find out the composition of planetary rocks not only from the theoretical point of view but also as a standpoint for designing habitats and residential units from local materials, so the chemical analysis is given much attention.

NASA is currently holding a competition to design and build a 3D printed habitat for deep space exploration on Mars. The concept of Mars habitat printed from Martian basalts was awarded the “runner up” title during the first phase of this competition.

Long before the European Space Agency and the London architectural firm «Foster + Partners» began to explore the feasibility of 3D printed Moon base. This habitat must be printed using a lunar soil.

 

About Olga Yurchenko

Olga Yurchenko
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