|Mission type||Asteroid sample return|
|Mission duration||10 years (planned)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||2025 (planned)|
|Rocket||Long March 3B|
|469219 Kamoʻoalewa orbiter|
|Sample mass||0.2–1.0 kg (0.4–2.2 lb)|
ZhengHe is a planned Chinese asteroid sample-return and comet exploration mission that is currently under development.
Planned for launch around 2025, ZhengHe will use solar electric propulsion to explore the co-orbital near-Earth asteroid 469219 Kamoʻoalewa and the main-belt comet 311P/PANSTARRS. The spacecraft will rendezvous with Kamoʻoalewa 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. A nano-orbiter and nano-lander will be deployed to conduct remote sensing and sampling observations, and explosives will be used to expose potential subsurface volatiles for detection. 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 311P/PANSTARRS. A flyby of an unnamed asteroid may also be attempted en route to 311P/PANSTARRS. Remote sensing and in-situ measurements will be conducted at 311P/PANSTARRS 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.
A CNSA press conference held on 12 June 2021 stated that ZhengHe was now planned for launch around 2025.
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.
The United Kingdom is considering a proposal for a penetrator to deliver a mass spectrometer to probe the subsurface ice of 311P/PANSTARRS.