Chinese scientists have laid their hands on a very precious container inside of which are the first samples of soil taken from the surface of the moon for 44 years.
They were brought back to earth by the Chang’e-5 lunar probe earlier this week and are now in Beijing ready to be analysed.
It’s a significant success for China’s moon programme, and its leaders are hoping it’s just a first step.
“Next year and the year after will be a very busy time for our space programs. We plan to finish 11 missions within two years,” said Wu Yanhua, Vice Administrator of China National Space Administration and deputy chief commander of China Lunar Exploration Program.
“Our plans include Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8, which we will use as an opportunity to cooperate with relevant countries and international organisations to explore the construction of a scientific research station on the moon.”
The Chang’e-5 capsule returned to Mongolia on Thursday before being flown by helicopter to Beijing.
Preliminary measurements suggest it contains 1,731 grammes of lunar samples.
They are the first soil samples from both the surface and beneath the surface of the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.