The Chang’e-5 probe has finished collecting lunar surface samples more than a day earlier than planned, China’s space agency has said.

The robotic vehicle stored the samples and is docking with a module currently orbiting around the Moon, before returning to Earth.

The sample collection was completed after 19 hours, the China National Space Administration said, although it had been planned to collect the samples over two days.

China’s Chang’e-5 probe has completed sampling on the moon, and the samples have been sealed within the spacecraft, China National Space Administration announced Thursday morning.

The collected samples were sealed in a storage device carried by the ascender. The probe has withstood high temperatures on the lunar surface of more than 100 degrees Celsius, and a robotic arm for multiple-point surface was used to collect samples. It also drilled to penetrate the soil.

Chang’e 5 worked towards the north of Mons Ruemker, a mountain overlooking a vast lunar mare called Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, on the western edge of the Moon’s near side. The probe is expected to bring about two kilograms of lunar samples back to Earth in mid-December.

On Tuesday, the robotic vehicle touched down on the Sea of Storms after descending from an orbiter, and the space agency later released images of the landing site showing the lander’s shadow. 

Beijing made its first lunar landing in 2013, and if successful, the new mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples after the United States and the Soviet Union.

The probe was launched on November 24 from the tropical island of Hainan. The mission is part of an ambitious space program that saw China send its first astronaut into orbit in 2003. It also has a spacecraft en route to Mars, while also working on plans to land a human on the Moon.

After successfully landing on the near side of the moon, China’s Chang’e-5 probe has completed sampling on the moon and sealed samples within the spacecraft. As the world’s first moon-sample mission in the 21st century, how has this mission completed?

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