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  • In the last fifty years,

  • humans have landed enough spacecraft on the Moon that,

  • if you're not careful,

  • the missions can start to feelordinary.

  • Like, oh, more robots on the surface?

  • Whatever, we've been doing that since the '60s!

  • The truth is, though, those landings are hard.

  • They often depend on thousands of steps going not just mostly right,

  • but going perfectly.

  • And sometimes

  • that doesn't happen.

  • Last Friday, India became the latest nation to learn that firsthand

  • when they lost contact with their spacecraft right before it landed on the Moon.

  • Their mission, called Chandrayaan-2,

  • was designed with three main parts:

  • an orbiter, a rover, and a lander called Vikram.

  • It launched in July, and its goal was to study the South Pole-Aitken Basin

  • near the Moon's south pole.

  • In 2009, India's first Chandrayaan mission detected ice within some of the basin's

  • craters,

  • which could someday support a permanent lunar base

  • or help us understand where Earth's water came from.

  • So the idea was to land Vikram and its rover

  • near the area and explore the terrain up-close for the first time.

  • Years of work went into the mission, and it was supposed to be a big, historic thing

  • because it also would have been India's first Moon landing.

  • But it didn't go as planned.

  • As the lander approached the Moon last week,

  • it appeared to be traveling faster than expected.

  • Then, only about two kilometers above the lunar surface,

  • mission controllers lost contact.

  • The next day, Chandrayaan-2's orbiting satellite captured an image

  • of what appeared to be Vikram's landing site, but there was still no signal from it.

  • When we filmed this episode on Tuesday,

  • that's all that had been confirmed by ISRO,

  • the space agency behind the mission.

  • Reports had started to trickle out that the lander may at least be in one piece,

  • but everything else is unclear.

  • Stories like this are always hard,

  • but in the world of space exploration, they're not uncommon.

  • After all, none of the countries that have landed on the Moon

  • were successful on their first try.

  • In fact, the Soviet Union failed eleven times before achieving the first successful landing

  • in 1966.

  • And earlier this year, an Israeli lander failed

  • in almost exactly the same way Vikram may have.

  • So even if they never get in contact with their lander,

  • the ISRO team isn't alone in this.

  • And fortunately, no matter what happens,

  • Chandrayaan-2 also won't be a total loss.

  • The orbiter is doing great, and ISRO expects it will continue to study the Moon

  • for as many as seven years.

  • In that time, its instruments will study the thin lunar atmosphere and the Moon's water,

  • and its camera will snap some really high-resolution photos.

  • According to ISRO, that camera is actually the highest-resolution one ever sent to orbit

  • the Moon,

  • and it's capable of taking pictures of objects just 32 centimeters across.

  • That will be great for studying features on the surface

  • and maybe even helping ISRO diagnose what happened during last week's landing.

  • Missions are an awesome way to learn about the solar system,

  • but we don't always need to go to space to learn something about it.

  • Sometimes, meteors come crashing to Earth,

  • bringing new information and the chance for new discoveries.

  • And that's something another team of scientists has been celebrating lately!

  • In the journal American Mineralogist,

  • a team from Caltech recently published their study of the Wedderburn meteorite,

  • which was discovered in Australia in 1951.

  • It's a cool red and black rock,

  • but the researchers confirmed something special about it:

  • It contains a new, naturally-occurring mineral!

  • That find came with a pretty nifty perk, too:

  • They got to name it!

  • By rule, only minerals known to exist in nature get their own proper names.

  • So even though scientists have seen this one in smelters for decades,

  • it's always been called by its chemical formula.

  • The team chose to call this mineral edscot tite,

  • after the American scientist Ed Scott.

  • Who first proposed the mineral exist in the Wedderburn meteorite.

  • At the time, though, instruments weren't advanced enough for Scott to confirm the mineral

  • was there,

  • so that's where this new research came in.

  • The team from Caltech examined their sample using methods like scanning electron microscopy,

  • which uses a beam of electrons, rather than light

  • Those images revealed tiny pieces of edscottite squished between other minerals.

  • And the images were detailed enough for the team to study the mineral's structure

  • and finally confirm Scott's hypothesis from decades earlier.

  • As for how the mineral got there?

  • Well, it may have been surprisingly similar to how it's made in smelters on Earth.

  • Wedderburn is an iron meteorite,

  • which means it was most likely part of the core of a large asteroid or small planet.

  • This object likely formed early in the solar system when a bunch of smaller rocks got crunched

  • together.

  • All those collisions would have added a lot of heat to the object,

  • which would have helped its molten metal sink towards the center to form a core.

  • Hot metalalso sounds a lot like the conditions inside a smelter,

  • so it all kind of fits together.

  • Still, think about how amazing that is:

  • A piece of an asteroid or planet that hasn't existed for millions or billions of years

  • somehow ended up on Earth.

  • And now, we get to study it.

  • The researchers aren't positive why edscottite hasn't been found in other iron meteorites,

  • so there are more questions to be answered here.

  • But whatever the reason,

  • it's pretty cool that something first found as industrial waste turns out to be part of

  • the solar system's building blocks.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space News!

  • We know there's a lot of science content on the Internet,

  • and we're thankful that you chose to watch some of ours.

  • If you want to help us keep making episodes like this,

  • you can learn how over at patreon.com/scishow.

  • And to all of our current patrons: Thank you!

  • We're glad to have you.

  • [ outro ]

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What Happened to India's Moon Lander? | SciShow News

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/10/13
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