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Spinel-Rich Rocks from the Moon

An exciting discovery by the Chandraya'an-1 lunar orbiter spacecraft was rock rich in the mineral spinel, MgAlO4, on the Moon's surface. Spinel is rare, and can be abundant only under limited conditions, including high pressures. So, it was suggested that this rock is from the Moon's mantle, and could give a view of processes and chemistry deep in the Moon. USRA geologists at the Lunar and Planetary Institute are investigating this possibility, using their expertise in experiments at high-temperatures and pressures, the advanced instrumentation at NASA Johnson Space Center, and data on a fragment of similar rock (fortuitously recognized in a lunar meteorite). This unique blend of experimentation, analyses of natural materials, and orbital remote sensing will lead to an understanding of lunar spinel-rich materials, of chemical processes on the Moon, and of possible resources for human exploitation.