China's Rover Successfully Maps 1,000 Feet of Hidden Structures Deep Under the Dark Side of the Moon

China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft, the first to ever land on the far side of the moon, has achieved a remarkable feat by mapping the upper 1,000 feet (300 meters) of the moon's surface in unprecedented detail. 

The results, published on August 7 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, reveal hidden structures and billions of years of previously concealed lunar history.

A Journey into the Lunar Depths

Since landing in 2018, Chang'e-4 has been capturing stunning panoramas of impact craters and sampling minerals from the moon's mantle. A rover named Yutu-2, equipped with Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), has been instrumental in this mission. The LPR sends radio signals deep into the moon's surface, and the echoes are used to create a map of the lunar subsurface.

In 2020, scientists used Yutu-2's LPR to map the upper 130 feet (40 meters) of the moon's surface. The new data, however, goes much deeper, revealing multiple layers of dust, soil, broken rocks, and hidden craters.

The Crater Daedalus on the lunar farside as seen from the Apollo 11 spacecraft in lunar orbit (Image credit: NASA)

Discovering Hidden Structures

The scientists discovered five distinct layers of lunar lava that flowed across the landscape billions of years ago. They also found evidence of a crater formed by a large object's impact, surrounded by ejecta—debris from the collision. These findings provide valuable insights into the moon's geological history, including its volcanic activity, which is thought to have petered out about 1 billion years ago.

The layers of volcanic rock were found to grow thinner closer to the moon's surface, suggesting that less lava flowed in later eruptions compared to earlier ones. Lead study author Jianqing Feng described the moon as "slowly cooling down and running out of steam in its later volcanic stage."

Continued Exploration and Future Insights

Chang'e-4's work on the moon is far from over. The craft continues to explore, and scientists hope it will provide further insights into unexpected geological formations. The detailed mapping of hidden structures beneath the lunar surface represents a significant advancement in our understanding of the moon's complex history.

Research paper