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Rock and dust samples collected by China’s Chang’e-5 moon mission in 2020 have spurred the discovery of a new mineral, named Changesite-(Y), officials announced on Friday. Photo: Chinese National Space Agency Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Centre

Chinese scientists declare discovery of new moon mineral from lunar rock samples brought back in 2020

  • Phosphate mineral Changesite-(Y) was isolated using a series of processes, including X-ray diffraction, according to China National Nuclear Corporation
  • CNNC party official says team measured concentration of Helium-3, a future fusion energy source, in lunar sample for future assessment and exploration

Chinese scientists have discovered a new mineral on the moon, making China the third nation after the United States and Russia to have discovered a lunar mineral, officials reported on Friday.

The mineral, called Changesite-(Y), was found in rock and dust samples retrieved from the moon by China’s Chang’e-5 mission, the nation’s first mission to return a lunar sample, which launched in 2020.

A research team from the Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology, a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), isolated a single crystalline particle of the material from more than 140,000 lunar particles using hi-tech processes, including X-ray diffraction, according to Wang Xuejun, a party official with the CNNC.


China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission returns to Earth with moon samples

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar mission returns to Earth with moon samples

The particle was about 10 microns in diameter, or about one-tenth of a human hair, Wang told a press conference on Friday.

Changesite-(Y) is a phosphate mineral found in lunar basalts and the Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification of the International Mineralogical Association has confirmed it as a new mineral, according to information presented at the conference.

It is the sixth new mineral discovered on the moon by humans.

“[The discovery] provides more basic scientific data for the evaluation and development of lunar resources and has deepened mankind’s knowledge of the moon and the solar system,” Dong Baotong, vice-chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority, told the conference.

“China has also become the third country to retrieve lunar samples and discover new lunar minerals after the US and Russia,” he said.

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The CNNC’s Wang said the discovery of Changesite-(Y) was a breakthrough in mineralogy research and it provided important new support for the history and evolution of the moon and for deep space exploration.

Meanwhile, Wang added that the research team had for the first time measured the concentration of a future fusion energy source, in the lunar sample.

“It provides fundamental scientific data for future assessment of helium-3 in lunar samples and their exploration,” Wang said.

The discovery was announced ahead of China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, or the moon festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar.


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China’s Chang’e 5 lunar lander finds water on the moon, but not as much as they hoped

Like China’s moon missions, the new mineral is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e.

The Chang’e-5 mission returned to Earth in December 2020 with about 1.73kg (3.8lbs) of rock samples from both the surface and from 2 metres (6.5 feet) under the ground of a high volcanic region on the near side of the moon where the spacecraft landed.

Liu Jizhong, director of China National Space Administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Programme Centre, told the conference the CNSA had distributed four batches of 152 lunar samples totalling over 53 grams (1.86oz) to 98 applicants from 33 research organisations.

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China aims to launch the Chang’e-6 probe around 2024 to collect samples from the South Pole-Aitken basin, a crater on the far side of the moon.

Ye Peijian, a senior Chinese lunar programme designer and engineer, told state broadcaster CCTV last year China could land its astronauts on the moon by 2030.

“I personally think that as long as the technological research for manned moon landing continues, and as long as the country is determined, a Chinese crewed moon landing is entirely possible by 2030,” Ye was quoted as saying.