China launched its Chang’e-5 probe which is not manned from the southern province of Hainan on November 24. The mission, named after the mythical Chinese goddess of the moon, aims to collect lunar material to help scientists learn more about the moon’s origins and the solar system more generally.
If all goes to plan, China will become one of three countries to bring back samples from the Moon. US astronauts retrieved lunar soil samples during the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 70s, and the former Soviet Union brought back lunar material through a series of robotic missions in the 1970s. In fact, the last successful lunar sample return mission occurred in 1976 with the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission. With Chang’e-5, China could bring the first material back from the Moon in nearly half a century according to foreign media.