China is pushing forward its exploration of a near-Earth asteroid and a main-belt comet with one space probe, said a senior space expert on Saturday.
The mission is to send a probe around an asteroid named 2016HO3 and then land on it to collect samples, said Ye Peijian, an academic of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, at the ongoing 2021 China Space Conference, held in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province.
The probe will then fly back to Earth's proximity and release a capsule to return the samples. After that, it 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 comet 311P, Ye said, adding that the whole process will take about ten years.
Asteroid 2016HO3 has a very close relationship with Earth. It has a diameter of about 40 to 100 meters, said Ye.
The second target, comet 311P, is one of the comets within the main asteroid belt. The diameter of its cometary nucleus is about 320 to 580 meters, he said.