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Mature lunar soils from Fe-rich and young mare basalts in the Chang’e-5 regolith samples


Space weathering on airless bodies produces metallic iron (Fe0) particles in the rims of mineral grains, which affect visible and near-infrared spectra and complicate the identification of surface materials. The Chang’e-5 mission provides an opportunity to couple information gained from its returned samples with in situ observations and orbital monitoring to gain insight on the details of space weathering on extremely Fe-rich basalts. By putting together all these data, we could extract a soil maturity index (Is/FeO) at the Chang’e-5 landing site of ~66 ± 3.2, indicative of a formation age for the Xu Guangqi crater, whose ejecta dominate the site, of 240–300 Myr ago. In addition, abundant large Fe0 particles were found in the sample, indicating that both the inherited Fe0 particles from late-stage mare basalts and the dense clustering of oversaturated Fe0 in extremely FeO-rich (>17 wt%) basalts contribute to observed Fe0 abundances. We suggest that space weathering of Fe-richer basalt generates Fe0 particles with a larger grain size and faster production rate.

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Fig. 1: The context images of CE-5 landing site based on Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Narrow Angle Cameras and CE-5 landing camera.
Fig. 2: The images and spectra from the hyperspectral mode of CE5-LMS.
Fig. 3: The MI images at the CE-5 landing site.
Fig. 4: Mosaic images from the multiband scanning mode of CE5-LMS.
Fig. 5: The modelled mpFe abundances versus Is/FeO values (calculated from npFe abundances) of the CE-5 soils compared with literature data of Apollo and Luna soils.

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Data availability

Large data necessary to generate the results used for this study are available online ( All original CE-5 data can be found in the Lunar and Planetary Data Release System ( Source data are provided with this paper.


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We gratefully thank the China National Space Administration (CNSA) for providing the scientific data and the precious CE-5 soil samples. This research was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant Nos. 41972322 and 11941001, CNSA Pre-research project on Civil Aerospace Technologies Grant Nos. D020102 and D020204, National Key Research and Development Program of China Grant Nos. 2020YFE0202100 and 2022YFF0711400, Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences Grant No. XDB 41000000 (Z.L.), National Natural Science Foundation of China Grant No. 42102280, Natural Science Foundation of Shandong Province Grant No. ZR2021QD016, China Postdoctoral Science Foundation Grant No. 2020M682164 (J.C.), CNSA Pre-research project on Civil Aerospace Technologies Grant No. D020201 (X.F.), CNSA Pre-research project on Civil Aerospace Technologies Grant No. D020204 (L.Q.) and National Key Research and Development Program of China Grant No. 2019YFE0123300 (J.Z.). This is the SDU-CPS publication #106.

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Authors and Affiliations



Z.L. conceptualized this research. X.L. and J.C. contributed equally to the data analyses and wrote the manuscript. C.L., H.C. and X.L. contributed to the spectral measurements of CE-5 samples. X.F., L.Q., J.Z. and J.L. contributed to the reduction of orbital datasets and geological interpretations of the data. Z.H and R.X. are team members of the CE5-LMS instrument and helped with LMS in situ data preprocessing.

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Correspondence to Zongcheng Ling or Jianzhong Liu.

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Nature Astronomy thanks Jeffrey Gillis-Davis and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Lu, X., Chen, J., Ling, Z. et al. Mature lunar soils from Fe-rich and young mare basalts in the Chang’e-5 regolith samples. Nat Astron 7, 142–151 (2023).

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