China to Launch Ambitious Asteroid-Comet Mission in 2022 | 4/18/2019 | Mike Wall
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China is expanding its robotic space-exploration plans far beyond the moon.

The nation, whose Chang'e 4 spacecraft pulled off the first-ever soft landing on the lunar far side this past January, aims to launch a bold mission just three years from now that will explore both an asteroid and a comet, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Plan - Discussion - Probe - Samples - Asteroid

The current plan, which is still under discussion, calls for a probe to visit and collect samples from the small near-Earth asteroid 2016 HO3 (also known as Kamo'oalewa).

"Then, the probe will fly back to the proximity of Earth, and a return capsule will be released to bring the samples back to Earth," Xinhua reported today (April 18), citing a China National Space Administration official. "After that, the probe will continue its journey. With the assistance of the gravity of Earth and Mars, it will finally arrive at the main asteroid belt and orbit the Comet 133P to explore it."

Comet - Icy - Wanderer - Beast - Comet

Comet 133P/Elst-Pizarro is not your typical icy wanderer. Rather, it's an odd hybrid beast known as a "main-belt comet" — an asteroid-belt body that has displayed comet-like activity in the past. Indeed, 133P also has an asteroid designation: 7968 Elst-Pizarro.

The object may...
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