Mysterious ‘gel-like’ substance of ‘unusual colour’ on the far side of the MOON is studied by China’s lunar rover as the nation seeks to identify the bizarre materialOctober 10, 2019
China is seeking to get to the bottom of a mysterious ‘gel-like substance’ found in a crater on the far side of the moon.
The nation’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander’s rover, Yutu-2,spotted the bizarre matter last month but it had to shut down and ‘nap’ almost straight after.
The equipment shuts down for 14 days as the lunar night is so cold it would freeze and destroy the rover if it did not shut down and protect itself.
After waking up last week, China sent the rover back to the site in a bid to picture, obtain and study the material.
A recent post on Chinese social media revealed some details about how the Chinese space agency (CNSA) was intending to detect the material.
Debate raged between the mission’s driver teams and scientists and eventually, Yutu-2 was sent into the small crater to try and find more information.
A first pass was unsuccessful, but a second attempt allowed the machine to get close enough to study the substance with the on board spectrometer.
It was studied successfully, CNSA revealed, but the exact findings are still a mystery.
A team member looking at the rover’s main camera in August spotted the small crater, which appeared to contain material with a colour unlike the surrounding lunar surface, Space.com reported.
Having seen the images, lunar scientists decided to postpone plans to send Yutu-2, which translates to jade rabbit, further west.
Instead, the machine was ordered to check the strange material.
The rover, which is on the moon with the Chang’e-4 lunar probe, carefully approached the crater and then targeted the strangely-coloured material.
It was then that the scientists made the strange discovery, although they have so far only said that the substance was ‘gel-like’ and an ‘unusual colour’.
One possible theory which was suggested by researchers not involved with the mission is that the substance is melted glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon.
China’s space agency previously said the current mission ‘lifted the mysterious veil’ from the far side of the moon, which is never seen from Earth, and ‘opened a new chapter in human lunar exploration’.
Because the space craft is solar powered, it has to switch off during a lunar night on the moon, during which there will be no sunlight.
The temperature on a lunar night is about -180°C (-292°F) and can get high during the day, where ‘insulating’ components like the gold coloured layers outside the lander and rover keep them cool.
Results of experiments from the mission could lead to new understandings of the challenges faced by settlers who may one day colonise our natural satellite.