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Chang’e-5’s lunar samples less dense than expected

Because the lunar samples retrieved by China’s Chang’e-5 probe were less dense than expected, it ended up recovering only 3.8 pounds of material rather than the targeted 4.4 pounds.

The probe had estimated the lunar rocks to have a density of 1.6 grams per cubic millimetre, based on data from past missions by other countries, said Pei Zhaoyu, the mission spokesman. Going by that figure, the probe stopped taking samples after just 12 hours, apparently assessing that the target had been reached. “However, from tests, the actual density might not be that high,” Pei told reporters.

This is not a failure, but a discovery. In order to make sure the lander did not recover too much material, weighing too much, they needed to set limits based on the expected weight of the material recovered. That these samples taken from the Mons Rümker volcano complex are lighter than expected reveals something about them. It suggests the lava here was different than lava samples taken elsewhere.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

3 comments

  • janyuary

    Typo correct (I think …), first sentence, “recovering on 3.8 ….” … it sounds like it was supposed to be “recovering only 3.8 ….”

    Best line in the story: “This is not a failure, but a discovery. “

  • janyuary: Typo fixed. Thank you!

    What would I do without my readers?

  • Mitch S.

    “This is not a failure, but a discovery. “
    I have a similar feeling about the crack in the Russian ISS module.
    ISS is up there so scientists and engineers can discover what it takes to build and maintain a habitat in space.
    The module has been up there 20 years – it is not a failure.
    If the crack is unexpected then it’s likely something can be learned from its cause (and lessons regarding locating the leak).
    The Russians should be proud of it’s accomplishments and not so secretive about it’s imperfections.

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