A Chinese lunar spacecraft capsule has returned to Earth with the first fresh samples of rock and debris from the Moon in more than 40 years.
The capsule of the Chang’e 5 probe landed in the Siziwang district of the Inner Mongolia region, state media reported shortly after 2am local time.
It had earlier separated from its orbiter module and performed a bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere to reduce its speed before passing through and floating down on parachutes.
Two of the Chang’e 5’s four modules set down on the Moon on December 1 and collected about two kilograms of samples by scooping them from the surface, and by drilling two metres into the Moon’s crust.
The samples were deposited in a sealed container that was carried back to the return module by an ascent vehicle.
The successful mission was the latest breakthrough for China’s increasingly ambitious space programme.