China’s Yutu-2 Rover Finds Mysterious Gel-Like Substance on Moon
China’s Chang’e 4’s Yutu-2 probe is on the dark side of the moon, making conspiracy theorists slide to the edge of their seats. As part of the China Lunar Exploration Project and China National Space Administration, the moon landing took place earlier this year, setting its unmanned rover loose on the most mysterious lunar landscape. And it seems they have found something unique — a gel-like substance that is, thus far, unexplainable by scientists back on Earth.
China on the Dark Side of the Moon
For millennia people have stared up at the moon and speculated what might be going on in the regions that seem always to be on the opposite side of what appears to be illuminated from Earth. This dark side stares out onto the cold, endless, forbidding landscape of deep space.
Cruising Around the Lunar Surface
The Planetary Society reported, “Though no real science results have emerged yet, scientists involved stated in Nature Geoscience that the landing site shows ‘potential evidence of excavated deep mafic material, which could reveal the mineralogy of the lunar mantle.’” Mafic material is a fancy word for igneous rock rich in magnesium and iron.
Outfitted with a panoramic camera, Yutu-2, the Chinese moon rover is relaying compressed images to Earth that, among other things, have shown features near the ‘Statio Tianhe’ landing site. Since its touchdown earlier this year, Yutu-2 covered a total of 271 meters (890 feet) as it continued Westward of the landing site in Von Kármán Crater.
With China on the moon, a lot of progress is being made in the minds of eager scientists who are busy analyzing the data collected thus far. Analysts reported that the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR) experiment aboard the rover has returned “very interesting radar data for lunar subsurface analysis” along the roving route.
But perhaps the most unusual find on the Chinese space mission is one that continues to baffle scientists. The online publication Space reported that Yutu-2 stumbled on an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during lunar day eight.
According to one report “the rover had been due to power down for one of its regular ‘naps’ just prior to the discovery, but when the anomaly was spotted, engineers decided to postpone the process so that it could be investigated. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.”
One Chinese space agency explained that on July 28, 2019, during a round of panoramic photography, “someone monitoring the rover spotted a ‘gel with a mysterious luster’ sitting in the centre of the crater. It couldn’t be identified from a distance, but whatever it was, it clearly stood out from its surroundings. ‘The fascinating colors seem to imply its extraordinary life,’ the news site went on to explain.”
An article appearing in Smithsonian.com suggests another yet-unproven idea: “In the absence of details…the announcement has led to speculation. The most likely explanation…is that the lustrous spot isn’t really a gel, but is some form of shiny melted glass created when a meteorite struck the moon.”
At this point, laypersons and scientists alike are waiting until someone gets to the bottom of this gelatinous finding to put speculation to rest. Meanwhile, Chinese moon rover pictures continue to amaze and intrigue heaven-gazers around the globe. Only time will tell (unless of course we get only the “official” story) whether the dark side of the moon has been harboring secrets all along.
NASA's Curiosity Rover May Have Found Fossils on Mars
For years, theorists have suggested that Mars once contained the necessary requirements to support life. Now, NASA’s Curiosity rover may have finally found indication of this from images showing what appear to be fossilized microbial structures.
Over the past five and a half years, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been mapping and imaging the Martian surface to gain more insight on the dusty planet. In addition to snapping pictures, the nomadic vehicle has been searching for signs of water, while also determining the viability for human colonization.
Scientists know that water once flowed on Mars and have been on a quest to discover whether it still does to this day. Aside from ice caps on the Martian poles, evidence of water in Mars’ past can be seen in dried lake beds, gullies, and what was once a large ocean in the planet’s topography.
In recent images of the Gillespie Lake outcrop, in the Yellowknife Bay area, Curiosity sent back pictures of small stick-like formations in a segment of sedimentary rock. To the untrained eye these formations might not appear to be much, but to a microbiologist who has studied microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS), the pictures seem to have some profound implications.
Nora Noffke of Old Dominion University in Virgina meticulously compared the photo to instances of MISS on Earth and published a paper that has intrigued scientists at NASA. Though she’s hesitant to make any definitive claims, her paper provides some of the best evidence to date for indications of past lifeforms.
The stick-shaped markings aren’t actually considered to be fossils of microorganisms themselves, but rather fossils of their imprints.
Some have contested that these tubular markings are more likely crystals, rather than the footprint of microorganisms. In either case, the finding shows that the area once consisted of a body of water that had the elements needed to support life.
NASA is planning on sending another rover to Mars in 2020 that is nearly identical to Curiosity, with the goal of strictly searching for signs of previous life. Once collected, samples will be sent back to Earth from a small rocket deployed from the rover.
Scientists have recently found other signs of life on the red planet, including fluctuating levels of methane in the atmosphere. Some have proposed the idea that this gas may be coming from life below the surface.
On Earth, methane is produced from bacteria, primarily in the stomachs of animals and humans. Could there be bacteria, or life containing bacteria, producing that methane below the Martian surface?