China’s Tianwen-2 semi-satellite probe will explore and return pieces of Earth

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The Osiris-Rex (NASA) mission was to collect rock samples from the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and return them to Earth. The first goal was achieved in October 2020. For the second goal, it will be necessary to wait until September 2023. But the machine returned to Earth on Monday May 10, 2021. Once again with video about this amazing scientific and technological adventure. (in English) © Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

It’s the next distant mission yet Tianwen-1The first exploration of Mars is underway. One year after the landing of the first Chinese spacecraftZurong On the Red Planet, China is aiming for a new and very complex technical goal: automated sample collection. So far, the Chinese Space Agency, CNSA, Sampling from the moon (end of 2020). It’s the only mission of this kind undertaken by China, but it is truly amazing.

A type of asteroid that has never been explored

After Tianwen-1, the Tianwen-2 mission will leave in 2025 in order toasteroid Kamwalwa (Also known as 2016 HO3), reaching only 40 meters in diameter. It’s an asteroid NEOwhose Composition studies and the sound orbiting Indicates that it will be a previous projectile of moon. This is called the Earth’s semi-satellite: it revolves around each of the Sun But also around our planet – in a very elliptical way.

Kamo’oalewa is known as Earth’s most stable semi-synthetic moon. In fact, these things are on fragile paths and can branch off under the influence gravity. The asteroid is expected to remain in its orbit for another 300 years. Nothing of this kind has been approached. Collecting samples with Tianwen-2 will allow us to learn more about Earth’s quasi-satellites and their origin.

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Kamo’oalewa, also known as 2016 H03, is a semi-satellite of the Earth. © JPL, NASA and YouTube

Sample collection from Kamo’oalewa must be completed and returned to Earth very quickly. The journey to the asteroid will only take a few months. CNSA will use technology Touch and go (landed – picked up – left), formerly used by Japanese missions hayabusa or Osiris Rex subordinate NASA. Only the installation technology is different: Tianwen-2 will spread four arms Robotics which will screw on the surface. This will prevent the probe from leaving the surface during sampling because due to its size, the asteroid’s gravity can be considered zero. The CNSA has not specified how many Tianwen-2 samples it is supposed to return to Earth.

Once sampling is complete, the probe will return to return the samples to Earth. You’ll drop it into a capsule protected by a heat shield to pass through Atmospherethat will fall under the umbrella In the desert from Inner Mongolia two to three years after take-off in 2025. But at this point, the Tianwen-2 mission will not be completed. She has a second destination.

double mission

After dropping the Kamo’oalewa samples to Earth, Tianwen-2 will continue on its way toward Object 311P/Panstarrs. The trip will last seven years. When Tianwen-2 passes through the Earth, it will use its gravity to accelerate and thus save fuel. Once we reach the 311P/Panstarrs, the probe will tell us all the information about this strange object. Ranked for the first time in the category cometsit is actually an “active asteroid”, that is, it combines the properties of both an asteroid and a comet.

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Equipped with cameras and spectrometer, the probe will analyze its chemical composition. By studying this kind of thing, the CNSA hopes to provide some answers to a question about the origin of water in our region. solar system. In particular, there will be Russian participation in this mission. In response to a call for bids from the CNSA, the Russian Space Agency will supply a detector solar wind.

Conquer China’s Solar System

On May 13, CNSA advertisement The mission leaves the conception stage and moves to the development stage. We will first build engineering models of various Tianwen-2 components for testing before building flight models for takeoff in 2025.

CNSA has already identified the following tasks in the Tianwen Program. After returning the asteroid samples with Tianwen-2, the agency will deal with the extreme difficulty of returning the Mars samples with Tianwen-3. It will be an all-in-one task, On the contrary from the program Mars sample return NASA andESA. Takeoff is scheduled for 2028. The Tianwen-1 probe, currently in orbit around Mars, continues its surface mapping work to find the best sampling site.

Finally, it will target the Tianwen-4 mission Jupiter. The probe must also be divided into two parts to study Jupiter and also to study its nearest volcanic moon Io. Other missions under study, in particular to visit Uranus And Neptuneuntil leaving Solar System !

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