Thursday, December 17, 2020

Lunar Soil Revisited

The reentry capsule from the Chinese Chang'e 5 lunar mission has returned to Earth, bringing back with it lunar soil samples. The last time such an event took place was back in 1976. As planned, the capsule landed in China's Inner Mongolia. The 300kg capsule has already been found. Its condition is being assessed prior to it being transported it to a secure location.

Up until yesterday the situation with lunar soil samples was as follows:

• The six Apollo missions brought back 382kg of lunar soil (or so it is claimed; nobody outside of NASA has ever been allowed to see them)

• Three Soviet missions (Luna 16, 20 and 24) brought back 324g

Subsequent American official mythology on this topic goes something like this:

"Americans distributed lunar soil samples among the entire world. Dozens of the largest and most prominent research centers and laboratories around the world received large rocks and many kilos of soil. The world's scientists studied them and discovered... they discovered... er... for example... um..."

The reality is a bit more complicated.

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