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China’s Yutu Rover Discovers Rocks
with Different Chemical Composition
than Apollo or Luna Crews Brought Back

December 2015

The Yutu lunar rover.

Dec. 22, 2015 (EIRNS)—In an article printed today in Nature Communications, scientists who have been analyzing data returned by China’s Yutu rover report that the basalt rock where Yutu landed, which was brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions, is chemically very distinct from the samples from the Moon returned by the Apollo astronauts, and the Soviet Union’s unmanned Luna spacecraft in the 1970s. When material from the mantle is heated up and liquified by impacts on the surface, it can create volcanoes, where lava fills up the craters created by the impacts, creating smooth plains, or maria. The volcanic bedrock analyzed by Yutu was deposited on the surface about three billion years ago, which is considered one of the younger areas of this geologic activity.

There are two teams of scientists analyzing the data from Yutu—one from a number of Chinese institutions, and the other, a long-standing educational partnership between Shandong University in Weihai, China, and Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Bradley Joliffe from Washington University explained that these results indicate that the upper mantle of the Moon is less uniform than that of the Earth. It is widely agreed that the Moon was formed from material that was propelled into Earth orbit when, early in its history, the Earth suffered an impact from a Mars-sized object. At some point, however, the evolution of the Moon appears to have diverged from that common origin.

This new data indicates that "correlating chemistry with age, we can see how the Moon’s volcanism changed over time," Dr. Joliffe said. It is clear, he said, that the data [once again] "reveal a more diverse Moon than the one that emerged from studies following the Apollo and Luna missions."