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China rover returns historic samples from far side of the moon — and they may contain secrets to Earth's deep past




China has become the first nation to collect material from the far side of the moon and return it to Earth.

The Chang'e-6 lunar module, which collected the sample, completed its historic mission with a touchdown in China's northern Inner Mongolia region around 2pm local time on Tuesday (June 25).

The sample is the first to be collected from the side of the moon that always faces away from Earth

"The Chang'e-6 lunar exploration mission has been a complete success," Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said from the control room amid applause and celebrations.

Named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, the Chang'e-6 mission was launched atop a Long March V rocket from China's southern Hainan province on May 3. It spent more than a month in transit before arriving at the South Pole-Aitken (SPA) basin on the moon's far side on June 2.

Related: China reveals most detailed geological map of the moon ever created

Once inside the basin — the oldest and largest impact crater on the moon's surface — the mission's lander drilled and collected samples using its robotic arm before ascending to reconnect with the orbiter and begin the journey home.