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December 17, 2020 - If the unmanned probe Chang’e-5 returns safely to Earth, it will make China only the third country to retrieve samples from the moon and will bring crewed missions a step closer.
The four-module Chang’e 5 spacecraft launched on Nov 23 and made China’s third landing on the moon on Dec 1.
The landing craft collected around 2kg of samples shortly after. The capsule transferred the moon samples to the orbiter, which will separate and return to Earth.
China is looking to catch up with the U.S. and Russia after taking decades to match their achievements, and has poured billions into its military-run space programme.
Scientists hope the samples from Chang’e-5 will help them learn more about the Moon’s origins and volcanic activity on its surface.
If the return journey is successful, China will become only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 70s.