Vastvam web: An unmanned Chinese spacecraft carrying rocks and soil from the moon returned safely to Earth early on Thursday (local time) in the first mission in four decades to collect lunar samples, the Xinhua news agency said. The capsule carrying the samples collected by the Chang’e-5 space probe landed in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region, Xinhua said, quoting the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The director of CNSA, Zhang Kejian, declared the mission a success, Xinhua added. Beijing is looking to catch up with Washington and Moscow after taking decades to match its rivals’ achievements and has poured billions into its military-run space programme.
The spacecraft, named after a mythical Chinese moon goddess, landed on the moon on 1 December and began its return voyage two days later. While on the moon it raised the Chinese flag. When the probe left the moon two days later, that marked the first time that China had achieved take-off from an extraterrestrial body, CNSA said. Scientists hope the samples will help them learn about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface. The spacecraft’s mission was to collect 2 kgs (4.5 lbs) of material in an area known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”, a vast, previously unexplored lava plain, according to the science journal Nature.