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China's moon probe lands back on Earth, reports state media

The return capsule touched down in the Siziwang, or Dorbod, banner of Inner Mongolia, in the early hours of Thursday local time. 

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.  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. 
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.  (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.

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 ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
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 ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. (REUTERS)

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

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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 in a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain known as Oceanus Procellarum, or "Ocean of Storms". How much was eventually gathered has yet to be disclosed.

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