Chinese spacecraft brings 1st lunar samples in over 40 years
China's Chang'e-5 probe successfully touched down on Earth in the early hours of Thursday (December 17), bringing home the first samples of the moon in over 40 years.
The spacecraft landed in Siziwang Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, at 1:59 AM (local time), according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, declared the Chang'e-5 mission a success.
It marks a successful conclusion of China's current three-step lunar exploration programme of orbiting and landing, and bringing back samples which began in 2004, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
It is China's maiden attempt to retrieve materials from an extra-terrestrial body. The Chang'e-5 lunar probe was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on November 24.
It was the first attempt to bring the moon samples in over 40 years after the US sent astronauts to the moon to collect samples. In the Soviet Union's unmanned lunar sampling missions, the spacecraft took off from the moon and returned to Earth directly.
The 8-tonne Chang'e-5 spacecraft has four independent but interactive components. This includes one to stay in lunar orbit as a docking station, one to go down to the moon's surface and drill for samples, one to take the material back to the dock station and another to bring the samples back to Earth.
The return capsule of Chang'e-5 separated from the orbiter about 5,000 km above the Atlantic. The capsule entered the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 120 km. At about 10 km above ground, a parachute opened.
The capsule landed smoothly in the predetermined area and the search team recovered it, the report said.