The Chang’e-4 lunar lander has made a striking discovery (China Lunar Exploration Project)

The Chinese lunar module Chang’e-4 has been exploring the far side of the moon since landing there in January.

And it’s made a strange discovery that has puzzled the scientists running the mission. According to Chinese government communications, the Yutu-2 rover from the module has found a ‘gel-like substance’ during lunar day 8. A lunar day is equivalent to 14 days on Earth.

The team piloting the rover have suspended driving activities while they try and figure out what the strange material is.

As reported by Space.com, in the government-sanctioned Chinese-language publication Our Space, the Yutu-2 ‘drive diary’ reports finding the gel after navigating through an area littered with impact craters.

After a hard day’s driving, the team was set to power down Yutu-2 for a midday nap (to protect it from the sun’s radiation) when an engineer noticed a small crater nearby containing material with a colour and texture slightly different from the surrounding lunar surface.

The gel-like substance was found in a small impact crater on the far side of the moon (China Lunar Exploration Project)

When the mission resumed, the scientists pointed the rover towards the crater and used a Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) to analyse it. The VNIS detects light scattered or reflected off materials to reveal their makeup. So far, the Chang’e-4 team haven’t given any further explanation for the substance other than to call it ‘gel-like’ with an ‘unusual colour’.

The Chinese mission has been scouting the far side since January (China Lunar Exploration Project)

The mission will continue to conduct scientific tests on both this discovery and the surrounding lunar surface using tools like a neutron radiation detector and low-frequency radio detector.

Despite the Chinese headlining the mission, the Chang’e-4 contains instruments created by other countries.

‘The Chang’e-4 mission embodies China’s hope to combine human wisdom in space exploration with four payloads developed by the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia,’ reports China’s state news agency Xinhuanet.





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