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China returns a moon dirt sample to Earth

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Chinese state media reported that China’s first attempt to return a sample of soil from the Moon had just landed back on Earth, with a crate of lunar rocks in tow.

A capsule of lunar material scraped up by a Chinese spacecraft landed this afternoon in a very snowy Inner Mongolia, after plunging through Earth’s atmosphere and parachuting to the moon.

The landing marks the end of the third, extremely complicated, whirlwind mission to the lunar surface of China, dubbed Chang’e 5.

The flight was launched on 23 November, sending a gaggle into the Moon’s orbit with four separate robotic spacecraft. Two of those spacecraft, a lander, and an ascent vehicle, touched down on the lunar surface on December 1st to dig up rock samples from the moon.

The ascent vehicle then blasted off from the Moon after enough material had been gathered, bringing the samples to the rest of the spacecraft still in lunar orbit.

That began the rapid journey back to Earth. The samples were moved by the ascent vehicle to the rest of the spacecraft, which set a path back towards our world.

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A reentry capsule with the samples inside broke free this afternoon and bound for Earth. Before diving through it and landing on the moon, the capsule skipped away from the atmosphere.

The landing makes China the third country after the United States and the former Soviet Union to return samples from the Moon to Earth.

Currently, with the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 robotic mission, the last time any country brought back samples from the Moon was in 1976.

Chinese officials found the capsule after the landing and will soon open it in a laboratory to better comprehend the lunar haul.

China was aiming to obtain up to four kilograms of a space rock from an unexplored portion of the Moon called Oceanus Procellarum, or The Ocean of Storms.”

This region of the lunar surface is much smoother than other Moon regions, leading scientists to believe that volcanoes have recently smoothed out the rocks there late in the lifetime of the Moon.

Studying this material in a laboratory setting could give scientists a deeper understanding of the evolution of the Moon as well as the Earth-Moon system’s entire complex history.

About Kirigaya Kazuto

Kazuto Kirigaya, born as Kazuto Narusaka, is a fictional character and the protagonist of the Sword Art Online series of light novels written by Reki Kawahara.

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