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China launches mission to bring back Moon rocks

China on Monday successfully launched its most ambitious mission to the Moon, to bring lunar rocks back to Earth before the end of 2020.

If successful, it’ll be the first time in nearly half a century that dirt from the Moon has been returned to Earth and the first time that China has retrieved materials from another world.

So far, only two nations — the United States and the former Soviet Union — have ever returned materials from the Moon.

The mission, called Chang’e 5, is the latest in a long line of lunar missions that China has been conducting over the last decade.

In 2013, the country made its first soft landing on the Moon with Chang’e 3, making China just one of three nations to put a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

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