Occasionally people state that there is little use in returning to the moon, whether by manned missions or rovers, for we have been there before.
However, this statement overlooks the fact that the moon continues to surprise us and there is much more to discover about that friendly, rocky moon in the night sky than one might think. This was demonstrated recently when China launched its Jade Rabbit Rover, which has inspired the enthusiastic Chinese media and its citizens, eventually reaching the number one spot for talked about topics on twitter.
The Jade Rabbit Rover was launched at the moon, joining the likes of Neil Armstrong on its surface. This was the first peaceful landing of a rover on the moon from China since 1976 and it is a great achievement for the scientists who made it possible.
The change-3 mission touched down on Saturday, east of its landing box. According to Dr. Paul Spudis this unexpected landing area was actually more interesting than its original landing spot and could even fill in gaps in our understanding of lunar history.
The good news keeps on coming as officials state that the rover’s instruments are now all in working order and they are now receiving clear images from the rover. It had been planned that the rover would land in the Moon’s Sinus yet it in fact landed on the northern edge of Mare Imbrium, otherwise known as the Sea of Rains which is visible from earth and often described as “the man on the moon.”
A landing such as this would usually be unremarkable and possibly just a little inconvenient. However, the landing seems to have been a blessing as it has left the rover by a sequence of lava flows; a geographically significant and interesting area that scientists estimate is fairly new in lunar terms.
The moon is estimated to have formed 4.5 billion years ago, with lava flows beginning 3.9 billion years before yet the Mare Imbrium’s lava seem to be between one and 2.5 billion years old making them the babies of the moon; a recent geological discovery.
It is discoveries such as this that make us hopeful because it shows how much we still have to discover about our universe. When we have yet to solve all of the many mysteries of the moon, which is in cosmological terms just on our doorstep, we can conclude that there is much we have yet to learn about the rest of the cosmos.
Many scientists are excited and hungry for knowledge, working towards finding the answers with rovers such as the Jade Rabbit rover and NASA’s famous Curiosity rover on Mars. Whilst for now we can only dream about the possibilities that science could make reality in the future, it is clear that science is making big progress with all of the discoveries that have been made just in recent years. The CERN supercollider discovered the Higg’s Boson particle, the human genome experiment discovered the simplicity of our genes and managed to sequence them and the Jade Rabbit rover could soon answer questions about the moon’s geological history.
Compared with the past, the progress of science is moving faster than ever before with all of the most important discoveries having been made at the latter half of the twentieth century and the twenty first century, such as the big bang theory and the discovery of black holes.
We can be hopeful that soon yet another discovery about our universe will be made by the Jade Rabbit rover, one closer to home as we may learn a little more about our moons history through its intriguing rocks and volcanoes.
It is important for humanity to strive to keep learning about our universe because even if we are unable to discover the answer, there is always the chance that we may just discover something amazing.
What great discovery do you think the Jade Rabbit Rover will uncover about our moon’s history?