A Chinese probe that landed on the moon transferred rocks to an orbiter Sunday in preparation for returning samples of the lunar surface to Earth for the first time in almost 45 years, the space agency announced.
If the mission succeeds, it will make China the third country after the United States and former Soviet Union to bring moon rocks to Earth.
A capsule carrying the rock samples is due to land in China’s northern grasslands in the Inner Mongolia region in mid-December. They will be the first fresh samples of the lunar surface obtained by scientists since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 probe in 1976.
The CNSA released a photo taken by the orbiter showing the ascent stage rocket approaching for a rendezvous.
China is in the midst of a series of increasingly ambitious space missions including a probe en route to Mars and the development of a reusable spaceplane.