During the months of July and August, the 6-month period expires for China to begin sharing with scientists from other countries the lunar samples collected by its Chang'e 5 probe. Some of them hope that this material will help solve several of the mysteries surrounding our satellite.
In December 2020 when the Chinese probe Chang'e 5 returned to Earth with lunar samples, more than 40 years had passed since the last time scientists were able to access material from our natural satellite.
The mission brought back about 1.7 kilograms of rocks and soil from the Procellarum Ocean or Ocean of Storms, a lunar sea that is located on the western margin of the satellite's visible face and occupies an area of almost 1.7 million kilometers. squares.
The rocks in this region of the Moon are believed to be much younger than the samples collected by the US and Soviet missions, which are between 3 billion and 4 billion years old.
The questions that could be answered
The samples collected by Chang'e 5 will allow scientists to fine-tune the methods for determining when different events occurred in the history of the solar system.
By not having samples from that region of the Moon, scientists had estimated the age of the surface by guiding themselves by the craters. In other words, according to this model, the oldest surfaces would have more craters than the younger ones. And this measurement technique was extended to other planetary bodies.
"If the new samples turn out to be younger than the crater-count models suggest, that means our entire chronology of the moon needs to be corrected. That's pretty critical," Jim Head, a planetary scientist from Brown University.
Other measurements, such as radioactivity, could help explain the widespread activity of lunar volcanoes. And knowing this history is not the only key to more accurately determine lunar evolution, but it will also help determine the true age of Mercury, Mars, Earth, and other bodies.