China becomes second country ever to plant its flag on the moon

China has become the second country in the world to plant its flag on the moon. 

It was placed into the lunar soil by the country's Chang'e-5 space probe, which is now on its way back to Earth with rock samples. 

The 2m-wide flag represents the "excitement and inspiration" felt during the US Apollo missions of the 1960s, state-run newspaper Global Times said. 

The US, the first and still only country to send humans to the moon, erected its first flag in 1969. 

"The Chinese national flag shines an even brighter red from moon, and from now on it will be a grand reminder for stargazers from all over the world of the excitement and inspiration we felt from Apollo missions more than half a century ago," the Global Times reported

China has sent several craft to the moon, but this is the first time it's attempted to bring one back. If it's successful, it'll bring back the first moon rocks collected in more than 40 years.

The probe is expected to land back on earth somewhere in China's Inner Mongolia region later this month. 

It's believed the US flags, planted in the 1960s and 1970s, will have since been bleached white by the sun's glare. Five of the six are believed to still be standing, but the one from the historic Apollo 11 mission was blown over when the module lifted off. 

The Chinese flag has reportedly been engineered to survive.

"An ordinary national flag on Earth would not survive the severe lunar environment," said Cheng Chang, member of the team behind the mission.

A decade before the US erected its first flag, the Soviet Union exploded a ball bearing the hammer and sickle on the lunar surface. 

"China has a more advanced approach," the Global Times joked.