China’s Chang’e 5 probe with lunar samples is returning safely to Earth, state media report

An unmanned Chinese spaceship transporting stones and earth from the moon returned safely to Earth early Thursday in its first mission in four decades to collect moon samples, Xinhua news agency said.

The return flight module of the spacecraft known as Chang’e-5 landed in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, Xinhua said, citing the Chinese space agency.

Beijing is trying to catch up with the US and Russia after taking decades to match its rivals’ successes and has poured billions into its military-led space program.

The spaceship, named after a mythical Chinese moon goddess, landed on the moon on December 1st and began its return journey two days later. While the Chinese flag was hoisted on the moon, China’s space agency said.

Scientists hope the samples will help them understand the origins, formation, and volcanic activity of the moon on its surface.

With this mission, China was only the third country to take samples from the moon after the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

This was the first such attempt since the Luna 24 mission of the Soviet Union in 1976.

The spacecraft’s mission was to collect two kilograms of material from an area known as Oceanus Procellarum or “Ocean of Storms,” ​​a vast, previously unexplored lava plain, according to the science journal Nature.

Under President Xi Jinping, plans for China’s “space dream,” as he calls it, were in full swing.

China hopes to have a crewed space station by 2022 and eventually send people to the moon.

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