China’s Tianwen-2 probe to explore Earth’s half-satellite and retrieve fragments

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[EN VIDÉO] Osiris-Rex bids farewell to Bennu
The goal of Osiris-Rex (NASA) was to collect rock samples from the surface of the asteroid Bennu near Earth and bring them back to Earth. The first objective was fulfilled in October 2020. For the second, we have to wait until September 2023. But on May 10, 2021, the machine returned to Earth. Back to the video of this incredible scientific and technological adventure. (In English) © Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA

It is after the next distant mission Tianwen-1The first Mars search is underway. One year after the landing of the first Chinese roverJhurang – On the Red Planet, China is aiming for a new, highly complex technological objective: automatic sampling. So far, China’s space agency CNSA, Sampling from the moon (End of 2020). This is the only mission of its kind made by China, but it is already spectacular.

One type of asteroid has never been explored

Following Tianwen-1, the Tianwen-2 mission will depart in 2025Asteroids Komoalewa (aka 2016 HO3), whose diameter has reached only 40 meters. This is an asteroid NEOWhose The study of its composition And sound Orbit He suggested there should be a former ejecta The moon. It is called a semi-satellite of the earth: it revolves around both The sun But also around our planet – in a very elliptical way.

Kamo’oalewa is known as the most stable of the Earth’s semi-satellites. In fact, these objects can branch off on fragile tracks and then under its influence. Gravity. The asteroid is expected to remain in its orbit for another 300 years. Never been to such an object. Sample collection by Tianwen-2 will allow us to learn more about Earth’s semi-satellites and their origins.

Kamo’oalewa, also called 2016 H03, is a semi-satellite of Earth. JPL, NASA, YouTube

Collecting samples from Kamoaleva and returning to Earth should be done fairly quickly. The journey to the asteroid will take only a few months. Will use the CNSA’s strategy Touch and go (Landing – Pick up – Left), formerly used by Japanese missions Hayabusa Or Osiris-Rex Of NASA. Only the anchoring technique is different: Tianwen-2 will deploy four weapons Robotics Which will screw the surface. This will prevent the probe from moving away from the surface during sampling because given its size, asteroid gravity can be considered as zero. The CNSA did not specify how many Tianwen-2 samples were to be returned to Earth.

Once the sample is complete, the search will return to bring the samples back to Earth. He will drop them into a capsule protected by a heat shield that passes through us AtmosphereWhich will be landed under Parachute In Desert Two to three years after the withdrawal in 2025 from Inner Mongolia. But at this point, the Tianwen-2 mission will not be complete. He has a second destination.

A dual mission

After dropping the Kamo’oalewa sample into Earth, the Tianwen-2 object will continue on its way toward 311P / Panstarrs. The journey will last seven years. When it crosses Earth, Tianwen-2 will use it to accelerate its gravity and thus save fuel. Once we reach 311P / Panstarrs, the search will tell us all the information about this strange object. Classified into first class CometIt is actually an “active asteroid”, meaning that it combines the properties of both an asteroid and a comet.

Equipped with camera and Spectrometer, The probe will analyze its chemical composition. Through the study of such objects, the CNSA hopes to answer some of our water origin questions. The solar system. In particular, Russia will participate in this mission. In response to a call for tenders from the CNSA, the Russian space agency will provide a detector Solar wind.

China is conquering the solar system

May 13 CNSA Announcement That mission leaves the concept stage and goes to the development stage. We will first create engineering models of the various components of the Tianwen-2 before creating flight models for takeoff in 2025.

The CNSA has already defined that the Tianwen program will have the following missions. After returning asteroid samples with Tianwen-2, the agency will deal with the extreme difficulty of returning Mars samples with Tianwen-3. It will be an all-encompassing mission, On the contrary From the program Mars Sample Returns NASA and itsESA. Lift-off is scheduled for 2028. The Tianwen-1 probe, currently in Mars orbit, is continuing its surface mapping work to find the best sample space.

Finally, the Tianwen-4 mission will have a goal Thursday. To study Jupiter, the probe must be split in two, but also the nearest volcanic moon. Iowa. Other missions are under study, especially for viewing Uranus And NeptuneAnd even leave The solar system !

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