China successfully landed a spacecraft on the moon’s surface on Tuesday in a historic mission to retrieve lunar surface samples, Chinese state media reported.
The Chang’e-5 probe was launched on November 24.
The spacecraft, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, is on a mission to collect lunar samples to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity.
The mission will attempt to collect 2 kg (4-1/2 lbs) of samples in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”.
If the mission is completed as planned, China will be the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.
The lander vehicle that touched down on the moon’s surface was one of several spacecraft deployed by the Chang’e-5 probe.
Upon landing, the lander vehicle is supposed to drill into the ground with a robotic arm, then transfer its soil and rock samples to an ascender vehicle that would lift off and dock with an orbiting module.
China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January last year, the Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first space probe from any nation to do so.