An attendee looks at a model of a Beidou Navigation Satellite at an expo in Shenyang, Liaoning province, in September. HUANG JINKUN/FOR CHINA DAILY Successful return of lunar rocks was just one of the highlights for the sector this year. Zhao Lei reports. China's space industry has produced a remarkable scorecard this year: characterized by the nation's first independent Mars mission, the completion of a global navigation satellite network and a landmark adventure that retrieved rocks and soil from the moon. The most significant event in China's space field, and also one of the most notable space activities globally, this year－the Chang'e 5 robotic mission－returned 1,731 grams of lunar rock and soil to Earth, marking a historic accomplishment 44 years after the last lunar substances were retrieved. The 23-day mission was China's first space journey to claim extraterrestrial samples, making it the third country to accomplish the feat after the United States and the former Soviet Union. In a letter published after the samples arrived on Earth, President Xi Jinping extended warm congratulations and sincere greetings to all participants on behalf of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission. Xi said that as China's most complicated space project, the Chang'e 5 mission completed the national space industry's first extraterrestrial sampling and return. It was the latest achievement by China's system, which is characterized by its ability to mobilize all available resources to overcome difficulties and achieve its goals, and also marks a major step forward for the country's space industry, he said. The mission's results will contribute to mankind's deeper understanding of the moon's origins and the evolution of the solar system, he noted. "Your extraordinary feats will be enshrined in the memories of our motherland and the people," Xi wrote, referring to those involved in the mission. Chang'e 5, the nation's largest and most sophisticated lunar probe, was launched by a Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket early on Nov 24 at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China's Hainan province. It was the world's first mission to bring lunar samples back to Earth since 1976. The 8.2-metric-ton spacecraft had four main components: an orbiter; lander; ascender; and reentry capsule. While in lunar orbit on Nov 30, the probe separated into two sections－the orbiter-reentry capsule combination and the lander-ascender combination.