In 2013, Chang'e-3, an unmanned lunar mission, touched down on the northern part of the Imbrium basin, one of the most prominent of the lava-filled impact basins visible from Earth.
The basalts at the Chang'e-3 landing site turned out to be unlike any returned by the Apollo and Luna sample return missions, researchers said. "The diversity tells us that the Moon's upper mantle is much less uniform in composition than Earth's," said Bradley L Jolliff, from Washington University in St Louis.
"And correlating chemistry with age, we can see how the Moon's volcanism changed over time," said Jolliff, who is a participant in an educational collaboration that helped
analyse Chang'e-3 mission data.
The American Apollo (1969-1972) and Russian Luna (1970-1976) missions sampled basalts from the period of peak volcanism that occurred between 3 and 4 billion years ago. But the Imbrium basin, where Chang'e-3 landed, contains some of the younger flows, 3 billion years old or slightly less.
The basalts returned by the Apollo and Luna missions had either a high titanium content or low to very low titanium; intermediate values were missing.

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