Chinese state media says a lunar probe containing the first samples of moon rocks and soil since the moon missions of the 1970s has returned to Earth.
Quoting China’s space agency, Xinhua news agency on Thursday said the capsule carrying the samples collected by the Chang’e-5 space probe landed in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region.
With this mission, China became only the third country to have retrieved samples from the moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.
Two of the four modules that made up the Chang’e-5 probe, named after a mythical Chinese moon goddess, landed on the moon Dec. 1. They collected about 2 kilograms of samples, by scooping and drilling about 2 meters into the moon’s crust. The space agency said it also planted a Chinese flag at the landing site.
The probe loaded the samples into a capsule on the ascent module that, two days later, blasted off from the moon’s surface and linked up with the orbiter module that brought it back to Earth.
The samples are the first gathered for study on Earth since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.
Scientists hope the samples will help them learn about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic surface activity.