China’s Chang’e 5 mission to the moon has succeeded in bringing back nearly four pounds of lunar rock, Chinese state news agency Xinhua has confirmed. The moon sample, which arrived on Earth this week, was checked over by the China National Space Administration before being handed over to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a ceremony on Saturday, December 19.
Chinese officials confirmed that they had acquired 1,731 grams, or 3.8 pounds, of moon rock and dust in the Chang’e 5 mission. The sample is now on its way to the National Astronomical Observatories lunar sample lab in Beijing.
“We retrieved about 1,731 grams of samples from the moon,” Deng Xiangjin, chief designer at China Aerospace Space and Technology Corporation, said in a press conference translated by Chinese state news agency Xinhua. “The samples meet the requirements set for the collected lunar sample, which means the complete success of the Chang’e 5 mission.”
The sample will be studied by researchers in China, and it is also expected that some of the sample will be shared with international researchers as well. This sample is particularly valuable not only because it is a rare piece of the moon, but also because of the area from which it was collected.
Chang’e 5 landed in an area called Mons Rümker in the Oceanus Procellarum region, where the rocks are estimated to be considerably younger than in the other areas of the moon from which previous samples were taken. This means that studying this new sample will give scientists the opportunity to see how the moon has evolved over time.
This is the first time that China has brought back a sample from the moon, and along with the U.S. and Russia, it is one of only three countries to have achieved this feat. It is also the first time in more than 40 years that a moon sample has been brought back to Earth.
Interest in exploring the moon had lagged in the decades since the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. But recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in lunar exploration, with China sending a rover to the moon’s far side as well as its sample return mission. NASA also has designs on the moon, intending to return to human exploration of the moon under its Artemis program, which has been buoyed by news this year that water has been found on the lunar surface.
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