3.3 Bringing Moon samples to Earth
But it wasn’t just astronauts that NASA brought safely back to Earth. The six Apollo missions brought back a total of 382 kg of Moon rocks and fine dust (regolith) from the lunar surface, which is roughly equivalent to five extra astronauts.
Three uncrewed Soviet Luna missions (Luna 16, 20 and 24) also brought back a total of 0.326 kg of lunar regolith samples. By comparison, one of the largest rocks collected by Apollo astronauts was sample 15555, from the Apollo 15 mission; this single sample had a mass of 9.614 kg, about 30 times the total mass of all the Soviet Moon samples put together.
In December 2020, the uncrewed Chinese lander Chang’e 5 brought 1.7 kg of lunar samples to Earth, especially important because they were collected from a younger region of the lunar surface than had previously been visited.