Beijing, Dec 17 — The return capsule of China’s Chang’e-5 probe touched down on Earth in the early hours of Thursday, bringing back the country’s first samples collected from the moon, as well as the world’s freshest lunar samples in over 40 years.
The spacecraft landed in Siziwang Banner, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, at 1:59 a.m. (Beijing Time), according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
It marks a successful conclusion of China’s current three-step lunar exploration program of orbiting and landing, and bringing back samples, which began in 2004.
Chang’e-5 is one of the most complicated and challenging missions in China’s aerospace history. The probe, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender and a returner, was launched on Nov. 24, and its lander-ascender combination touched down on the north of the Mons Rumker in Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, on the near side of the moon on Dec. 1.
The milestone mission has accomplished several firsts for China, including the first moon sampling, the first liftoff from an extraterrestrial body, the first rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit and the first spacecraft carrying samples to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.