The shadow of the Chang’e 4 lander is visible in this image, as are its tracks. CLEP/CNSA
China’s Chang’e 4 mission is currently exploring one of the lesser-known areas of the moon — the far side, which faces away from Earth. Previously it found minerals which may have come from deep beneath the lunar surface, and now it has found something even stranger: An oddly-colored “gel-like” substance of unknown origin.
The mission consists of not only the Chang’e 4 lander, but also a smaller rover called Yutu-2. It was Yutu-2 which stumbled across the unexpected blobby mystery, as reported by space.com. The discovery occurred on lunar day 8, or July 25 here on Earth, and it was so intriguing to the mission scientists that they chose to suspend other exploration plans to learn more about the unknown substance. The information about the finding comes originally from a Chinese language publication called Our Space.
The substance was found in a lunar crater, and it stood out from the rest of the moon’s surface due to its color and texture. The Chinese scientists haven’t released any more information about what exactly the substance looks like, describing it only as gel-like and of an unusual color. It could be that the substance is melted glass which was deposited onto the moon’s surface by a meteorite.
The Chang’e 4 lander recently awoke from a snooze to resume its investigations of the moon for its ninth lunar day. A lunar day is equivalent to 14 days on Earth, the same as a lunar night. The rover powers down and “sleeps” through the cold lunar night, to be reactivated during the lunar day as it was last week.
Its next task will be conducting scientific tests with its neutron radiation detector and low-frequency radio detector, together with its infrared imaging spectrometer and other instruments, which will focus on observing the composition of the moon’s surface.
The mission isn’t only making use of Chinese technology, however. It also represents an international collaboration. “The Chang’e-4 mission embodies China’s hope to combine human wisdom in space exploration with four payloads developed by the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia,” according to China’s state news agency Xinhuanet.