China is about to launch a new space mission, in which the Tianwen-2 probe will collect samples from a small near-Earth asteroid 2016 HO3. Also, the device will be sent to the comet of the main belt 311P, according to the message of the China Corporation of Space Science and Technology.
Photos from open sources / © Tianwen-1. Global Look Press / CNSA / Keystone Press Agency
The timing of the mission is not specified, but it is known that it has already been officially included in the space launch program. At the end of April, a special conference dedicated to this mission will be held in the city of Hefei.
China announced plans to study the quasi-satellite of the Earth discovered in 2016 – asteroid 2016 HO3 and comet 133P (Elst-Pizarro) back in April 2019. Chinese scientists plan that their device will fly around the asteroid, land on its surface, collect samples, and then return them to Earth in a special module.
According to the development, after the device leaves the asteroid, it will approach our planet, the module with samples will be disconnected, and the probe itself will continue flying to the asteroid belt to fly around comet 133P.
For probes of the Tianwen series, this will be the second mission. In July 2020, China launched the Tianwen-1 spacecraft. It consists of an orbiter, a lander, and the Zhuzhong rover. The latter in May 2021 made a soft landing in the southern part of the Utopia plain on the surface of Mars.
The main goal of the mission was to search for possible signs of life on the Red Planet. Also, experts are trying to find out whether the conditions on Mars can change so that in the future the planet will become suitable for human habitation.