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China Moon trip returns ‘youngest ever lavas’

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China's Chang'e spacecraft brought lunar soil and rock samples to Earth last year - China National Space Administration (CNSA) via CNS/AFP/File

China Moon trip returns ‘youngest ever lavas’

The first lunar rocks brought back to Earth in decades show that the Moon was volcanically active more recently than previously thought, Chinese scientists said on October 19.

A Chinese spacecraft carried lunar rocks and soil to Earth last year – humanity’s first mission in four decades to collect samples from the Moon, and a milestone for Beijing’s growing space programme.

The samples included basalt – a form of cooled lava – from 2.03 billion years ago, scientists found, pushing the last known date of volcanic activity on the moon closer to the present day by as much as 900 million years.

Analysis of the samples “reveals that the Moon’s interior was still evolving at around two billion years ago”, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said in a statement.

The Chang’e-5 mission – named after a mythical moon goddess – collected 2kg of samples from a previously unexplored area of the moon called Mons Ruemker in the Oceanus Procellarum or “Ocean of Storms”.

The area was selected as it was thought by scientists to be more recently formed, based on the lower density of craters from meteors on its surface.

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