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The Chang'e-5 spacecraft gathering a sample on the Moon. Photo: China National Space Administration/AFP via Getty Images

A capsule containing Moon rocks collected from the lunar surface by China's Chang'e-5 mission has been found in Inner Mongolia.

Why it matters: China is just the third nation to return lunar samples to Earth, after the U.S. and former Soviet Union.

Details: The rock samples were taken from Oceanus Procellarum, an area thought to be hundreds of millions of years younger than the Apollo sites.

  • By analyzing these lunar rocks back on Earth, scientists will be able to get a more clear picture of the evolution of the Moon.
  • The Chang'e-5 mission comes on the heels of other robotic Chinese missions to the Moon, including the 2019 Chang'e-4 mission, which became the first to operate on the far side of the Moon.

The big picture: These kinds of sample return missions are beneficial for scientists because the kind of analysis that can be done on Earth is far superior to the science that can be performed by rovers or orbital missions taking photos — labs on the planet are just more powerful.

  • Japan just returned a sample of an asteroid to Earth for analysis, and NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission sampled a different asteroid, with plans to return its sample in 2023.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

The coming land rush in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Space is the new Wild West. Nations and space companies are racing to come to a consensus on what they can own, mine and take possession of in outer space before competitors stake ground first.

Why it matters: Private companies are building their businesses on sending spacecraft to the Moon, asteroids and other objects in the coming years to eventually extract resources that will be used or sold.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

Axiom announces the crew for its first private ISS mission

Earth from space. Photo: NASA

An American entrepreneur, Canadian investor and Israeli investor, along with a former NASA astronaut, are set to make up the first fully private mission to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The flight — expected to launch in January 2022 — represents part of NASA's bid to create an economy in low-Earth orbit supported by private companies.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
33 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.