China’s Chang’e-5 mission has successfully collected samples from the moon’s surface, authorities announced Thursday.

“Sampling completed! After about 19 hours of work on the moon’s surface, Chang’e-5 successfully completed robotic sample collection, and the samples were sealed and packaged,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter.

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the probe started gathering samples after its successful landing late Tuesday night, eight days after lifting off from Hainan in southern China on Nov. 24.

“Chang’e 5 is expected to work for about two days in a region to 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,” read a CNSA statement issued on Wednesday.

“It will bring about 2 kilograms [4.4 pounds] of lunar samples back to Earth in mid-December, 44 years after the last substances from the moon were returned to Earth.”

The probe has also sent back its first color photos from the moon’s surface.

The is the third Chinese mission to land on the moon, following the Chang’e-3 probe in December 2013 and the historic Chang’e-4 probe that reached the far side of the moon in January 2019.

If Chang’e-5’s mission — expected to last about 23 days — is successful, China will become only the third country in the world to bring samples back from the moon, after the US and the former Soviet Union, read the CNSA statement.

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