In 2025, China will launch the Tianwen 2 asteroid sampling mission
The principal designer of China’s Tianwen 1 Mars mission said, the country wants to launch its second deep space exploration expedition in 2025. On May 13, Zhang Rongqiao announced on China Central Television that the Tianwen 2 asteroid probe has entered the engineering development stage. “The components are undergoing extensive testing,” Zhang added, one day before the one-year anniversary of China’s Zhurong Mars rover’s landing as part of the Tianwen 1 mission. Tianwen 1 was a big step for China; it was the country’s first fully homegrown interplanetary mission and pulled off China’s first landing on another planet.
Tianwen 2 will also attempt an unprecedented anchor-and-attach method, using four robotic arms to land on Kamo’oalewa, with drills on the arms securing the probe to the surface of the 130-foot-wide (40 meters) asteroid. The 10-year-plus Tianwen 2 mission will first target the small near-Earth asteroid Kamo’oalewa, which may actually be a blasted-off piece of Earth’s moon. Tianwen 2 is expected to return to Earth more than two years after launch, dropping off its invaluable cargo. The spacecraft will embark on a roughly seven-year-long voyage out to 311P/PANSTARRS.
The Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences will also be involved in the active-asteroid phase of the mission. The mission was also tentatively named “Zheng He” after a famous Chinese naval explorer of the early 1400s, with the name evoking historic exploration feats as China embarks on new expeditions into deep space.
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