For countless ages, the moon has captivated human imagination with its mysterious allure. Now, China’s pioneering space program is peeling back the layers of the moon’s history, shedding light on its enigmatic past. In a historic achievement in 2018, the Chang’e-4 lander, developed by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), became the first spacecraft to successfully land on the far side of the moon – often referred to as the “dark side.”
Since that momentous landing, the Chang’e-4 mission has embarked on an extraordinary journey of exploration. It has captured stunning images of impact craters and meticulously gathered samples of minerals, all aimed at unraveling the mysteries hidden within the top 1,000 feet of the moon’s surface.
In a highly anticipated revelation, the recent findings of the Chang’e-4 mission have been unveiled, inviting the world to peer into the moon’s past like never before. These findings, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, present a multi-layered narrative of the moon’s surface, each layer unveiling a piece of its complex history.
According to Jianqing Feng, a prominent astrogeological researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and co-leader of the analysis, the uppermost 130 feet (40 meters) of the moon’s surface form a mosaic of dust, soil, and fragmented rocks. Within this intricate geological composition lies a crater, a remnant of a colossal impact from a celestial object striking the moon’s surface.
Delving deeper into the moon’s history, Feng and his team made a remarkable discovery – five distinct layers of lunar lava that once flowed across the moon’s landscape billions of years ago. The moon’s origin story dates back approximately 4.51 billion years, when a Mars-sized object collided with Earth, giving birth to our celestial companion.
Over eons, the moon endured a ceaseless bombardment of space debris, each impact leaving behind surface fractures. These fractures acted as conduits for molten magma beneath the moon’s mantle, resembling the geological processes seen on Earth.
The team’s analysis, fueled by data from Chang’e-4, revealed a fascinating pattern: the closer to the lunar surface, the thinner the layers of volcanic rock. This phenomenon, as explained by Feng, reflects the moon’s gradual cooling and the diminishing intensity of its volcanic activity over time.
The research indicates that the moon’s volcanic activity largely ceased between one billion and 100 million years ago, rendering it relatively “geologically inactive.” Nonetheless, the groundbreaking findings hint at the potential presence of dormant magma beneath the moon’s surface.
Chang’e-4’s mission is far from concluded, with Feng and his team viewing this as just the initial phase of their groundbreaking journey to unravel the moon’s geological story. As technology advances and our understanding of lunar exploration deepens, the moon’s ancient secrets are gradually being unearthed, ushering in a new era of lunar comprehension.