The Moon, China’s new Playground

The Moon is thought to have formed about 4.5 billion years ago, shortly after the formation of the solar system. The prevailing theory is that a Mars-sized body collided with the Earth, and the debris from the impact eventually coalesced to form the Moon.

The Moon’s surface is divided into two main types of terrain: the heavily cratered and mountainous highlands, and the relatively flat and smooth “maria.” The highlands are composed mainly of a rock called anorthosite, while the maria are made mostly of basalt.

One of the most striking features on the Moon’s surface is the existence of large, circular basins called impact craters. These were formed by the collision of large asteroids and comets with the Moon’s surface. The largest known impact crater on the Moon is the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which is about 2,500 km (1,500 miles) across and 13 km (8 miles) deep.

The South Pole-Aitken (SPA) Basin is the largest known impact crater on the Moon, and one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. It is located on the far side of the Moon and is not visible from Earth. The basin has a diameter of about 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) and a depth of about 13 kilometers (8 miles). The basin is roughly circular in shape, and its center is located near the lunar South Pole.

The SPA Basin is thought to have been formed by the impact of a massive object, possibly a comet or asteroid, with the Moon’s surface. The impact would have been incredibly powerful, releasing energy equivalent to several billion atomic bombs. The force of the impact created the large basin and also caused the Moon’s crust to be partially melted and vaporized.

The SPA Basin is of great scientific interest because it is one of the oldest known features on the Moon, and it is also one of the largest known impact craters in the Solar System. The basin is so large that it has the ability to provide a window into the Moon’s early history and geology, including information about the Moon’s crust, mantle, and core.

The SPA Basin is also important for future human exploration of the Moon. The basin’s location near the lunar South Pole makes it a potential location for a human base, as the region may have frozen water in the form of ice in some areas of the crater floor. The basin’s large size and depth could also provide shielding from the harmful radiation of space, making it a potential location for a lunar outpost.

Several lunar missions have been proposed to study the SPA Basin in more detail, including NASA’s proposed Artemis program which aims to land humans on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence there.

China’s Chang’e missions are a series of robotic lunar exploration missions conducted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The program is named after the Chinese moon goddess Chang’e.

The first mission in the series, Chang’e 1, was launched in 2007 and was a lunar orbiter that conducted high-resolution mapping of the Moon’s surface. It was followed by the Chang’e 2 mission, which was also an orbiter that conducted further mapping and also tested new technologies for future missions.

The next mission in the series, Chang’e 3, was launched in 2013 and was the first Chinese spacecraft to land on the Moon. The mission included a lander and a rover called Yutu (or “Jade Rabbit”), which conducted a variety of scientific experiments and also explored the lunar surface.

The fourth mission, Chang’e 4, was launched in 2018 and made a historic landing on the far side of the Moon, making China the first country to land a spacecraft on this side of the Moon. The mission included a lander and a rover, which conducted a variety of scientific experiments, including studying the lunar geology, environment, and geophysics.

The Chang’e 5 mission was launched in December 2020, it was a sample return mission, the spacecraft landed on the near side of the Moon, collected samples and returned back to Earth on December 16, 2020, becoming the first time in over 40 years that samples have been brought back from the Moon.

The Chang’e program continues with the Chang’e 6 mission, which is expected to be a sample return mission to the lunar South Pole and Chang’e 7,8 and 9 are also planned to be launched in the coming years. The goal of the program is to increase China’s understanding of the Moon and to pave the way for future manned lunar missions.

The Moon’s surface has been explored by a number of spacecraft, both manned and unmanned. The first manned landing on the Moon was in 1969, when the American spacecraft Apollo 11 landed astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the surface. Since then, there have been six manned landings on the Moon, with the last one taking place in 1972.

The Moon is also studied by robotic spacecraft, such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and China’s Chang’e missions. These spacecraft have greatly expanded our knowledge of the Moon’s surface, geology, and history.

In recent years, there have been renewed interest in exploring the Moon and potentially establishing a human presence there. This is driven by the desire to use the Moon as a stepping stone for further exploration of the Solar System, as well as the potential to use lunar resources, such as water and minerals, to support human missions.

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