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The Geological Characteristics of the Chang'E-3 Exploration Region
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The Geological Characteristics of the Chang'E-3 Exploration Region

The Chang'E-3 mission is the second step in China's lunar exploration program. It has achieved the desired engineering goals by successfully soft landing on the lunar surface. Chang'E-3 landed successfully in the northern part of Mare Imbrium which had never been visited by any lunar landers or rovers. Chinese planetary scientists are now working on the detailed geological interpretation of the exploration area using multi-source data. With morphological and geological analysis, they hope to nail down the major scientific problems for the target area and the scientific discoveries that could be made, thus laying a scientific foundation for the planning of lunar exploration. Under the leadership of Professor Long Xiao from China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), a team of young planetary scientists including Jiannan Zhao, Jun Huang and others have mapped the exploration area and have acquired large amounts of information on topography, geomorphology, geologic structure and the composition of the landing site and its adjacent region[1].

In this work, the authors studied the geological characteristics of Chang 'E-3 exploration region, and produced a geologic map of a 1째 x 1째 region centered near the landing site. They also analyzed the topography and slope using the Digital Terrain Model generated from Terrain Camera (TC) images. The exploration region is overall relatively flat and the altitude of the landing site is about -2610m. The morphology and classification of the impact craters and wrinkle ridges in the area were studied, and the wrinkle ridges were supposed to have different formation mechanisms. After calculating FeO and TiO2 abundances using Multiband Imager (MI) data, two basaltic units have been confirmed: the northern part belongs to Imbrian low-Ti/very-low-Ti mare basalts, and the middle to southern part is Eratosthenian low-Ti/high-Ti mare basalts. In addition, the thickness of the Eratosthenian basaltic units was estimated, and two traverses for the Yutu rover were proposed.

At this moment, Chang'E-3 is conducting its second and third lunar day exploration work as planned, and all the scientific payloads are in good condition. The team on Chang'E-3 Mission is making the best use of the newly acquired data to thoroughly study the landing area, and will make further studies in morphology, geologic structure, material composition and subsurface structure.

Fig. 1:Geological map of the CE-3 exploration region. The background image is a TC Morning Map in Lambert projection (TCO_MAPm04_N45E339N42E342SC).


[1] ZHAO Jiannan, HUANG Jun, QIAO Le, XIAO Zhiyong, HUANG Qian, WANG Jiang, HE QI, XIAO Long, SCIENCE CHINA Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy,Vol. 54, No. 3, 2014 (pages 569-576).

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