China’s Breakthrough Discovery on the Moon Opens a New Space Era

The new Moon race and the rise of new international tensions

Eugenio De Lucchi
5 min readSep 26, 2022
Photo by Nicolas Thomas on Unsplash

On the night of Dec. 16, 2020, some infrared cameras detected the warmth of a capsule returning from space in the Mongolian skies. A short time later, a recovery team spotted the capsule in a snowy grassland in Inner Mongolia.

It was the reentry module of the Chinese Chang’e-5 mission, which left a few days earlier for the Moon. The module contained about four pounds of lunar rocks that would provide new information about the geology of Earth’s satellite 40 years later to the U.S. and Soviet missions.

Recently, Chinese scientists announced they had found a tiny crystal composed of an unknown mineral among the collected samples. China thus is the third country to discover new materials from the lunar soil, after Russia and the United States.

The new mineral has been named Changesite-(Y), after the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e, and is the sixth material to be identified on the Moon.

Changesite-(Y) is a phosphate mineral in columnar crystal, and what makes it intriguing in itself is its contents. Within the mineral, scientists have found Helium-3, a version of helium incredibly scarce on Earth that has always fascinated scientists for…