Chinese spacecraft carrying lunar rocks lifts off from moon

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A Chinese spacecraft lifted off from the moon on Thursday night with a load of lunar rocks, the first stage of its return to Earth, the government space agency reported.

Change 5, the third Chinese spacecraft to land on the moon and the first to take off from it again, is the latest in a series of increasingly ambitious missions for Beijing’s space programme, which also has a orbiter and rover headed to Mars.

The Change 5 touched down on Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moons near side. Its mission: collect about 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of lunar rocks and bring them back to Earth, the first return of samples since Soviet spacecraft did so in the 1970s. Earlier, the US Apollo astronauts brought back hundreds of pounds of moon rocks.