|Mission type||Asteroid sample return|
|Mission duration||10 years (planned)|
|Start of mission|
|Rocket||Long March 3B|
|2016 HO3 orbiter|
|Sample mass||0.2–1.0 kg (0.4–2.2 lb)|
ZhengHe is a proposed asteroid sample-return and comet exploration mission by China.
Planned for launch around 2024, ZhengHe will use solar electric propulsion to explore the near-Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 and the main-belt comet 133P/Elst–Pizarro. The spacecraft will rendezvous with 2016 HO3 and conduct remote sensing observations in orbit, before landing on the asteroid to collect a sample of up to 1 kg (2.2 lb) of regolith. ZhengHe will then return to Earth to drop off a return capsule containing the sample, and conduct a gravity assist maneuver to propel the spacecraft toward Mars, where a second gravity assist will be performed to direct it to 133P/Elst–Pizarro. Remote sensing and in-situ measurements will be conducted at 133P/Elst–Pizarro for at least one year.
In 2018, a deep space exploration roadmap covering the 2020–2030 timeframe was proposed by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which included an asteroid exploration mission planned for launch around 2022 or 2024. In spring 2019, after a design study for the mission was carried out by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the CNSA began soliciting international proposals for scientific instruments to be carried on ZhengHe.
ZhengHe will incorporate several types of instruments, including wide/narrow angle multispectral and color cameras, a thermal emission spectrometer, a visible/near-infrared imaging spectrometer, a mass spectrometer, a magnetometer, and a charged/neutral particle and dust analyzer. International contributions to these payloads are being encouraged.
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- Xu, Lin; Zou, Yongliao; Jia, Yingzhuo (2018). "China's planning for deep space exploration and lunar exploration before 2030" (PDF). Chinese Journal of Space Science. 38 (5): 591–592. doi:10.11728/cjss2018.05.591. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
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- Wang, F. (27 June 2018), "China's Cooperation Plan on Lunar and Deep Space Exploration" (PDF), Sixty-first session (2018) of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, UNOOSA, retrieved 4 June 2019.