Lancaster lunar expert helps provide scientific understanding of the landing site of China’s latest Moon mission


The Moon

A Lancaster University scientist is helping to prepare the way for the scientific understanding of the landing site of China’s latest Moon mission.

China’s Chang’e-5 probe is the first mission from any country to collect samples from the Moon in more than 40 years.

Lionel Wilson, Emeritus Professor at the Lancaster Environment Centre, has co-authored a paper that outlines what is currently known about the Moon’s northern Oceanus Procellarum – the location from which the Chang’e-5 probe has just collected samples.  

The paper, ‘Young Lunar Mare Basalts in the Chang’e-5 Sample Return Region, Northern Oceanus Procellarum’, which has just been published by Earth and Planetary Science Letters, provides the scientific context for the samples, and the photographs that were taken by the mission.

It outlines the expected age, thickness, composition and other characteristics of the geology of that part of the Moon’s surface.

The northern Oceanus Procellarum is an area of the Moon far away from the locations of previous sample missions and the rocks there are much younger than those of areas previously sampled by American and Soviet missions.

It is hoped the samples will provide information on the Moon’s later history, as well as how the Earth and Solar System evolved.

Professor Wilson said: "This is an exciting mission. We have analysed images of channels in the lava flows in this area that imply the lavas were very fluid, and we know from data taken by orbiting probes that the rocks in this area have some chemical differences from those returned by the Apollo missions. With these new samples we shall have the chance to see how all these observations fit together."

Professor Wilson did his PhD on the mechanical properties of the Moon, which helped inform the original Apollo 11 Moon landing. He has spent much of the last 50 years modelling volcanic activity in space and on Earth.

The paper’s authors are: Yuqi Qian of the China University of Geosciences and Brown University (USA); Long Xiao of the China University of Geosciences and the China Academy of Sciences; James Head of Brown university; Carolyn van der Bogert and Harald Hiesinger of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster; and Lionel Wilson of Lancaster University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2020.116702

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