A Chinese spacecraft has risen from the moon with a lunar eclipse, the first phase of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.
Chang’e 5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon and the first to take off again, is the latest in a series of aspirational missions for Beijing’s space program, which includes an orbit and rover to Mars.
Chang’e 5 The storm touched the sea near the moon on Tuesday.
The first return of the samples after the Soviet spacecraft was launched in the 1970s was to collect about 2 kilograms (4 pbs) of lunar rocks and bring them back to Earth.
Earlier, US Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of lunar rocks.
The landing site is near the formation of Mons Rumker, which may contain rocks that are billions of years older than previously recovered.
The China National Space Administration said the samples were transferred to a capsule because the vehicle, which took off from the moon just after 11pm on Thursday (1500 GMT) Beijing time, collided with a vehicle returning to lunar orbit.
The rocks and debris of the moon were sealed inside a special canister to avoid contamination.
It is not clear when the linkup will occur. After transfer, the ascending module is ejected and the capsule remains in lunar orbit for about a week, waiting for the optimal time to return to Earth.
The capsule containing the samples is expected to land on Earth by the end of the month, Chinese officials said.
Touchdown is planned for the grasslands of Inner Mongolia as Chinese astronauts return to the Shenzhou spacecraft.
The Chang 5 launcher left on the moon was capable of taking samples from the surface and drilling two meters.
Although its main task was to retrieve samples, the lander was set up to take detailed photographs of the area, to map subtropical conditions using underground radar, and to analyze lunar soils for minerals and water content.
Just before raising the climbing vehicle, the space government described Lander as the first Chinese flag to stand free on the moon.
The agency posted a picture taken from the lander while the climbing vehicle was taking the engine.
Chang 5 revived the discussion that China would one day send astronauts to the moon and build a scientific base there, although no timeline has been set for such projects.
China launched the first temporary orbital laboratory in 2011 and the second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022, perhaps to be serviced on a reusable spacecraft.
As China enhances cooperation with the European Space Agency and others, U.S. concerns about the secretive nature and close military ties of the Chinese program have been severely limited.