The Utah-2 Chinese lunar rover rolled over a strange mystery on the far side of the moon. At the bottom of a small, recent impact crater, the rover found a shiny unknown substance, which the Chinese space agency described as a "mysterious glitter gel."
Although Chinese scientists have not yet revealed what it might be, the best guess from outside scientists, according to Space.com, is that the material is glass that formed in the heat of the impact that left the crater.
On July 28, three days after the start of the two-week lunar day, the Utah-2 science team at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center was preparing to power the rover for "lunchtime", a process that prevents the delicate machine from overheating when the sun is directly overhead.
But team member Yu Tiani noticed something unusual in the crater while checking out a panorama taken from Utah-2. So the researchers kept the rover awake just a little longer, transferring it to the crater for a better look.
There they found a brilliant substance. According to the rover's drive log, this material was different from the surrounding regolith in shape, color and texture. (Unfortunately, they still haven't released his photos, but you can see the crater itself in the images here.)
The rover was put to sleep after a crater inspection and woke up again to get the most out of the afternoon sun. During that time, she examined the crater using her Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS), which analyzed the light reflecting the surfaces to determine their chemical composition.
We still have no answers from this analysis, but the surface of the moon is quite dry, so it may be that the things found on the rover are more of a solid melted material than a crunchy, jelly-like substance. Which, even if they weren't on the near side, would have ruled out a bunch of tardigrades.
Utah-2 returned to sleep on August 7 for the lunar night, as it operates on solar energy. He woke up on the 25th of August for the next lunar day and continues his journey west in search of new discoveries.