China plans robotic spacecraft to collect asteroid samples, claims report

HO3 asteroid is the smallest and closest "quasi-satellite" to Earth.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Asteroid 2016 HO3 is in the same orbit around the Sun as Earth.jpg
Asteroid 2016 HO3 is in the same orbit around the Sun as Earth.


The Chinese government is going forward with a plan to send a robotic spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid located close to Earth, claimed a report published by The China Daily on Friday.

The mission will be called Tianwen 2 and will launch a probe to collect samples from the 2016 HO3 asteroid. HO3 is the smallest and closest "quasi-satellite" to Earth.

Once this has been done, the main part of the craft will continue to fly toward a main-belt comet in order to explore it.

According to Ye Peijian, a leading spacecraft researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, the mission will consist of sending a large carrier rocket that will unleash a probe consisting of two parts (an orbiter and a reentry module) toward the 2016 HO3. 

The spacecraft will first orbit around the small asteroid and then fly very close to it to use a mechanical arm to scoop dust from its surface. The probe will then fly back to Earth’s orbit and release its reentry module. 

The module will fall back to our planet, carrying with it the samples.

New directions, new missions

The orbiter, which will still be in space, will then travel toward a main-belt comet named 311P to further explore this new region, according to The China Daily.

2016 HO3 is also called 469219 Kamo'oalewa. It was first spotted in April 2016 by an asteroid survey telescope at the Haleakala Observatory in Hawaii and was found to travel in an orbit around the sun similar to Earth's.

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China's first independent interplanetary exploration, called the Tianwen 1 mission, succeeded in deploying a rover named Zhurong on Mars in May 2021. "Tianwen" means "quest for heavenly truth” and is an ideal name for the types of missions it represents.

"The program was named after a long poem by the famous ancient poet Qu Yuan of the Kingdom of Chu during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). He is known for his patriotism and contributions to classical poetry and verses, especially through the poems of the Chu Ci anthology, also known as Songs of Chu," wrote China’s space agency in its statement at the time of Tianwen 1’s launch.

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