The Chinese rover Yutu 2, currently on the other side of the Moon, has indeed fallen on a strange small stone of very elongated shape. Future analyzes will determine its origin.
On January 3, 2019, the Chinese Chang ‘e-4 mission became the first to gently land on the far side of the Moon. The lander and its rover (Yutu 2) are currently still positioned in the Von Karman crater. You will find this formation in the South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest impact crater in the Solar System.
An unusual rock
The two machines resumed their activities on February 6 after having “hibernated” during the last lunar night. But a lunar day earlier, the rover came across a curious specimen of rock with a very “elongated” shape. This stone might not seem particularly exciting to the untrained eye. Among specialists, however, the discovery has aroused much interest.
“It’s really unusual ”, told Space.com Dan Moriarty, from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Repeated impacts, thermal cycle stresses and other forms of weathering on the lunar surface all tend to break rocks into more or less “spherical” shapes, with sufficient time ”, she continues.
According to the researcher, the shape of this stone, and the pronounced “crest” located near its edge, suggest that this rock is geologically young. It could in particular be an impact ejecta from a nearby crater, rather than a simple exposed rock.
Analyzes to determine its origin
The mission team agreed that this small stone deserved a closer inspection, according to Our space, the popular Chinese-language science channel affiliated with the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The researchers plan to analyze it soon with the Yutu 2 visible and near infrared imaging spectrometer (VNIS), which detects light scattered or reflected on materials to reveal their composition.
“I hope that the spectral data will allow an evaluation of its origin, whether local or exotic, that is to say from outside this zone ”, points out Clive Neal, a leading lunar expert at the University of Notre-Dame.
For their part, Yutu 2 and its moon lander are already well beyond their nominal lifespans of 90 Earth days and one year, respectively. The rover, for its part, has already traveled a total of 628 meters since its deployment just over two years ago.