Apollo 15 image captures landing locale of China’s Chang’e-5 Moon lander – the Mons Rümker region in the northern part of Oceanus Procellarum, away from previous sampling sites. 
Credit: NASA

 

Later this year, China is slated to attempt the first Moon-sample return to Earth mission in over four decades.

The candidate landing region for China’s Chang’e‐5 lunar sample return mission is the Rümker region, located in the northern Oceanus Procellarum. The area is geologically complex and known for its volcanic activity.

There’s great science to be had according to a new research paper, led by Chikondi Chisenga of the State Key Laboratory of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing at Wuhan University in Wuhan, China.

Locations of proposed landing sites (marked by red stars) from new study.
Chisenga, et al.

 

Chikondi and colleagues (including experts from the U.S. and Sweden) report the Mons Rümker region on the Moon features evidence for multiple volcanic episodes, including some of the youngest lunar mare basalts known to date.

NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) probes.
Credit: NASA

 

Underground bodies

Chinese lunar researchers have analyzed gravity data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. Also used were geophysical tools to study both shallow and deep subsurface structures. The assessment also utilized data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) and Japan’s Terrain Camera that flew on the Kaguya Moon orbiter.

China’s Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission.
Via China Space website

Credit: New China/Screengrab

 

“Our results suggest that the Mons Rümker region features multiple small and large high‐density underground bodies, some of which breach the surface,” the research team reports. In particular, there could be a large magmatic body at a depth of roughly 3.7-11.2 miles (6–18 kilometers) that fed the surface volcanoes. Their analyses also revealed another circular feature at roughly 4.3-10.5 miles (7‐ 17 kilometers depth with high‐density values.

 

Maximum scientific return

As China prepares to send the Chang’e‐5 mission to collect drill‐hole samples, the research team combined the results from their study with remote sensing and geological analyses to propose four candidate landing sites that “satisfy the geological and geophysical criteria for maximum scientific return.”

The Chang’e-5 mission will retrieve and return to Earth up to 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of lunar surface and subsurface samples. Chang’e-5 is comprised of four parts including the orbiter, ascender, lander, and Earth reentry module containing the lunar specimens.

Following a circumlunar voyage in 2014, a return capsule parachuted to Earth. This test was a prelude to China’s Chang’e-5 lunar mission being readied for its return sample mission now scheduled for 2020.
Courtesy: China Space

The former Soviet Union successfully executed three robotic sample return missions: Luna 16 returned a small sample (101 grams) from Mare Fecunditatis in September of 1970; February 1972, Luna 20 returned 55 grams of soil from the Apollonius highlands region; Luna 24 retrieved 170.1 grams of lunar samples from the Moon’s Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis) for return to Earth in August 1976.

The last Apollo mission to bring back to Earth lunar collectibles was the Apollo 17 expedition in 1972.

Go to this China Central Television (CCTV) video that spotlights the Chang’e-5 mission at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJrmmWnU8HE

To view the paper — “Geology and Scientific Significance of the Rümker Region in Northern Oceanus Procellarum: China’s Chang’e-5 Landing Region” — go to the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets at:

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1029/2019JE005978

 

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