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Reuters

China's moon probe lands back on Earth

A researcher works next to Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule carrying moon samples after it landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, December 17, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

China's Chang'e-5 moon probe has landed in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia, the official Xinhua news agency reported, completing its return to Earth and bringing back the first lunar samples since the 1970s.

The return capsule touched down in the Siziwang, or Dorbod, banner of Inner Mongolia, in the early hours of Thursday local time, Xinhua said, citing the China National Space Administration.

China launched the Chang'e-5 spacecraft on Nov. 24 and landed a vehicle on the moon at the start of December.

Researchers work next to Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule carrying moon samples, after it landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, December 17, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

The success of the mission would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union, who 44 years ago launched the last successful mission to retrieve samples.

The plan was to collect 2 kg (4.41 lbs) of samples, although how much was eventually gathered has yet to be disclosed.

Researchers work around Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule carrying moon samples next to a Chinese national flag, after it landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, December 17, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Nikhil Kurian Nainan; Editing by Chris Reese and Mark Heinrich)

Li Chunlai, National Space Administration's deputy chief designer of phase III of the lunar exploration project, Yang Baohua, deputy general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the National Space Administration and deputy chief commander of the lunar exploration project, Hu Hao, National Space Administration's chief designer of phase III of the lunar exploration project, Xu Hongliang, spokesman of the National Space Administration, and Xie Jianfeng, chief engineer of Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, hold a news conference in Beijing, China, December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the National Space Administration and deputy chief commander of the lunar exploration project, speaks during a news conference in Beijing, China, December 17, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter