Chinese flag planted on Moon 51 years after the US as probe takes rock samples

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A Chinese flag has been planted on the surface of the Moon – making it the second nation to leave a permanent memento.

Pictures released by China’s National Space Administration show the flag, which was specially-designed to survive on the lunar surface.

It was placed there by the unmanned Chang’e-5 space probe, which was last night returning to Earth after collecting rock samples.

Experts hope the mission will help shed light on how the Moon has evolved, and where water sources came from.

The solar-powered probe spent 48 hours on the surface, picking up samples which will be examined by scientists – the first time this has happened since a Soviet spacecraft brought back rocks in the 1970s.

Although China has previously sent two missions to the Moon, it has never left a permanent flag on the surface.

Until this week the US was the only country to have done so.

Project leader Cheng Chang told Chinese state media that the flag had to be adapted to survive cold temperatures.

“An ordinary national flag on Earth would not survive the severe lunar environment,” project developer Cheng stated.

Officials said it will serve as a reminder of the “excitement and inspiration” of the US Apollo missions, which saw Neil Armstrong become the first astronaut to land on the Moon in 1969.

China’s space agency says it plans to put a human on the Moon in around 2030.