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Lunar samples collected by China’s Chang’e-5 probe are unveiling some new details about the Moon and how its resources can help Earth, the South China Morning Post reported.
In 2020, the Chang’e-5 lunar probe – named after China’s Moon goddess Chang’e – returned to Earth carrying nearly four pounds of lunar dust and rocks, the first samples to be retrieved in more than 40 years.
Since then, Chinese researchers have been carefully studying the samples and came across a new mineral. They reported that the particle – named Changesite-(Y) – was a phosphate found in lunar basalts and had a diameter of about one-tenth of a human hair.
Changesite-(Y) – also named after the goddess – is the sixth new mineral discovered on the Moon and its discovery makes China the third country to have discovered a novel lunar particle, after the US and Russia.
Scientists and officials explained that Changesite-(Y) could provide insights into the history and evolution of the Moon, as well as new details for deep space exploration.
But Changesite-(Y) is just one of the unique discoveries that astronomers made.
The collected samples were also found to contain Helium-3, a stable isotope of helium that many scientists say could be integral to developing new energy sources on Earth, Newsweek noted.
Helium-3 can be used to fuel future nuclear fusion reactors, an ambitious – but still nascent – technology that would provide greener energy for the planet.
Unlike existing nuclear fission plants, fusion reactors don’t produce dangerous and radioactive waste products.
Scientists have speculated that Helium-3 is abundant on the Moon and could be integral to Earth’s energy needs, although it would take many years until nuclear engineers could develop a reliable energy-producing fusion reactor.