|Mission type||Asteroid sample return|
|Mission duration||10 years (planned)|
|Start of mission|
|Rocket||Long March 3B|
|469219 Kamoʻoalewa 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 co-orbital near-Earth asteroid 469219 Kamoʻoalewa and the main-belt comet 133P/Elst–Pizarro. 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 133P/Elst–Pizarro. A flyby of an unnamed asteroid may also be attempted en route 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.