We last went to the moon in 1972, except for
that rover China sent two years ago… It’s still up there. (look up) Right now. moonpies
Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 all landed on our moon. Astronauts collected and returned
2,200 separate samples totalling 382 kilograms (842 lbs). Three Soviet Luna missions also
returned about 300 grams (¾ lb) of lunar material too. They get a participation award.
While it may sound like it, that’s not a lot of moon to study. That last Soviet was back in 1976. So, when
China landed on the moon in 2013, it should have been pretty huge news! The moon had been
abandoned for almost 40 years. China’s Chang’e 3 launched in 2013, making China the third
country to land a wheeled vehicle on the moon’s surface, and the first in the 21st century.
The Chang’E-3 craft has a nuclear-powered lander and a small rover named Yutu, or “jade
rabbit.” Yutu’s complement is classified by China, but we know it has cameras, lunar-penetrating
radar which can look 400 meters below the surface, and two spectrometers for analyzing
the lunar rocks and soil (called regolith). I know what you’re thinking, ‘MERCIA DID IT
FIRST CHAANA. You know what, you’re right. We landed humans there first. And the U.S.S.R.
landed a rover too, but there’s SO MUCH MORE to learn about the Moon. For example, Apollo
only dug 3 meters into the lunar surface, that’s not a lot. But, in March of 2015, Chinese
researchers published a paper in the journal Science announcing that Yutu’s lunar-penetrating
radar had found NINE subsurface layers! This suggests that geological activity had occurred
on the moon since the Imbrian period which ended 3.2 billion years ago. Lunar geologists
believe “eruptions filled the [basin where Yutu is sitting] at least five times.” Scientists
didn’t think the moon had been active at all in that period, so now more research is needed.
For example, some scientists think the youngest volcanic flows may be only a billion years
old, others think maybe 100 million, but, really, they have no idea, because they’ve
never gotten to test them up close! Another study published in December 2015’s
Nature Communication used data from Yutu’s instruments and announced the discovery of
a whole new type of moon rock! The basalt rocks that Yutu is exploring with her spectrometers
are completely different from samples brought back by the Apollo and Luna missions. Lunar
geologists think: 1. this means there was explosive activity in the region. Which counters
other theories. 2. that we still know almost nothing about the moon. As NASA put it, exploring the moon creates
opportunities for international cooperation and economic expansion; plus it pushes the
boundaries of our civilization. Yutu is the latest in a long line of exploration of our
solar system, and though mechanical problems rendered it immobile, and crippled, the Chinese
rover broke the record for the longest-operating mission on the moon.