China's lunar rover makes unexpected discovery on far side of the moon

In research published in the journal Nature on May 16 , scientists from the National Astronomical Observatories of Chinese Academy of Sciences reveal the composition of the lunar surface at the South Pole-Aitken Basin is a little different to what they expected.

"Understanding the composition of the lunar mantle is critical for testing whether a magma ocean ever existed, as postulated," said co-author Li Chunlai, in a press release.

The Chang'e 4 lander originally landed in the Von Kármán Crater, which lies on the floor of the South Pole-Aitken Basin, back in January.

By studying the light reflected from the surface as the rover rolled along Von Kármán, the scientists were able to detect minerals and determine their chemical composition.

Because these elements are expected much deeper in the mantle, the authors suggest they were ejected from an impact event caused by a meteor striking the lunar surface.

That makes China's mission particularly important, but because of the complexities of studying moon minerals on a planetary body hundreds of thousands of miles away, further work will be necessary to gather a more complete understanding of the mantle's composition.

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