China to send probes to three asteroids

Beijing , March 1 (IANS) China plans to send space probes to study the movements of three asteroids and land on one of them to collect samples, state media has reported.

The probes are aimed at better understanding the asteroids’ characteristics and to study their formation and evolution in order to understand the origins of the solar system and life on Earth, Ji Jianghui, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Purple Mountain Observatory, said.

“The experts plan to fly a probe by an asteroid; to fly side by side with an asteroid for a period; and to land on a third one to conduct in situ sampling analysis on the surface,” Ji said.

According to Efe, the priority of the scientists during this mission will be to detect asteroids close to Earth to calculate the probability of their colliding with the planet.

“China will send the Chang’e-5 lunar probe to the moon and bring samples back this year. If that mission succeeds, it would mean China, like Japan, would be able to bring back samples from asteroids to study in labs on Earth,” according to Ji.

China is expected to send another probe to the far side of the moon in 2018 and also carry out its first exploratory mission to Mars to collect geological samples of the soil.

China also hopes to make its own permanent space station operational by 2022.