China to launch Tianwen-2 mission to explore asteroid

China plans to launch the Tianwen-2 mission around 2025 to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid and explore a comet, a senior space expert said Monday.

The main goal of the Tianwen-2 mission is to send a probe to a near-Earth asteroid coded 2016HO3 to retrieve samples, Zhang Rongqiao, the chief designer of China’s planetary exploration program and chief designer of the Tianwen-2 mission, told the media on the country’s Space Day that falls on April 24.

“If successful, it would be China’s first samples collected from interplanetary space,” Zhang said, adding that a spacecraft will be sent to fly around and then land on the asteroid to collect the samples.

After completing this main task, the spacecraft is expected to continue its journey to explore a comet in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Zhang said. ■

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