Dec. 16 (UPI) — China on Wednesday became the third nation in history to return a space probe to Earth with samples from the moon.
The Chang’e 5 spacecraft landed in China’s Inner Mongolia region early Wednesday. It launched from the island of Hainan on Nov. 24 and touched down on a site on the moon known as the Ocean of Storms earlier this month.
The China National Space Administration said the lander used a drill and robotic arm to retrieve samples from the moon’s surface and more than 6 feet underground.
Scientists said that the lunar samples could provide insight into the formation and history of the moon.
On Wednesday, China joined the United States and the former Soviet Union in returning such samples to earth.
The United States returned 842 pounds of moon rocks in the Apollo program from 1969 to 1972 and the Soviet Union deployed three robotic sample return missions in the 1970s.
While China has arrived late to space exploration, the nation plans to send astronauts to the moon by 2030 and eventually set up a permanent research station on the lunar surface.