Reconstructing the late-accretion history of the Moon

The article was published in Nature.

Associate Prof. Zhu Menghua from the State Key Laboratory in Lunar and Planetary Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, accomplished a significant breakthrough in research of the accretion history of the Moon. His paper, titled “Reconstructing the late accretion history of the Moon”, was published in the world’s leading academic journal Nature. The relevant research findings provide new scientific support for scientific data analysis of Chang’e 4 and the subsequent probing missions to the Moon and Mars. The research project was given great support by the Macao Science and Technology Development Fund.

 

As the 1st and corresponding author of the paper, Associate Prof. Zhu Menghua was trained at M.U.S.T., who stayed on after graduation to pursue research and teaching at the University in the field of space science. Other partner institutions involved in the project include Planetary Science Institute, USA, Observatory at Nice, France, University of California at Davis, the Natural History Museum in Berlin, Germany, and Free University Berlin, Germany.


Associate Prof. Zhu Menghua from the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences, M.U.S.T.

 

For several decades, scientists have been puzzled by the substantial mismatch in the highly siderophile elements (HSEs) budgets of the Earth and the Moon. Taking advantage of the supercomputing platform available at M.U.S.T., Associate Prof. Zhu Menghua performed a series of impact simulations to quantify the impactor-retention ratio of the Moon’s impact history, investigate the process of different celestial bodies impacting on the Earth and the Moon in different angles, and recreate the impact history of the solar system. The research findings provide new understanding for the late accretion history of the Earth and the Moon, bear indirectly on the giant impact hypothesis on lunar formation, provide support for the magma ocean theory in relation to the Moon and the Earth, and offer new perspectives to research on the impact history of the solar system and the discriminated early accretion of the Earth and the Moon. The research discoveries have also provided new scientific support for the scientific data analysis of Chang’e 4 and the subsequent probing missions to the Moon and Mars.

In his “News and Views” article titled “Low retention of impact material by the Moon” in the same issue of Nature as Associate Prof. Zhu’s research article, Planetary Chemist James Day from University of California, San Diego, ascribes high importance to Associate Prof. Zhu Menghua’s research findings, deeming that the work will undoubtedly improve human understanding of the accretion processes of planetary bodies such as Mars.

With the support from the Macao S.A.R., M.U.S.T. has been involved in the national deep space exploration missions proactively since the Space Science Institute establishment in 2005. By July of 2018, the Ministry of Science and Technology approved M.U.S.T. to establish the State Key Laboratory in Lunar and Planetary Sciences, the first state key laboratory of China in the field of space sciences to advance the development of planetary sciences in China and train high-quality planetary sciences talents.

 

The State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences of M.U.S.T. has been deeply engaged in national deep space exploration missions since its inception. As the sole institute in China dedicated specially to lunar and planetary sciences research, the research faculty of the laboratory have participated broadly in data analysis and research work in relation to the Chang’e lunar-probing missions. In collaboration with the Purple Mountain Observatory of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the laboratory developed the gamma ray spectrometers for Chang’e 1 and 2 and conducted the relevant data analysis work. By joining hands with Mainland Chinese scientists, researchers at the laboratory analyzed the effective scientific data of Chang’e 3 and achieved abundant scientific achievements. When the Chang’e 4 probe achieved soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3, the laboratory had researchers recruited as members of the core scientists’ team of Chang’e 4, taking part in the data analysis and research of the Chang’e 4 mission.

In the meantime, researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences of M.U.S.T. are making preparations for the lunar sampling analysis of Chang’e 5, and endeavoring actively to participate in the subsequent deep space exploration programs of China, in the hope of moving forward exploration missions to Mars, minor planets and mega-planets, and therefore contributing to development of the lunar and planetary sciences cause of China.


The State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences of M.U.S.T. is equipped with a supercomputing center