Exploring outer space


Exploring outer space

Human are always fascinated by the universe beyond our reach. Space exploration may lead to the discovery in planets and celestial bodies, and possibly the advancement of mankind. PolyU has a long history of aerospace research and aspires to extend its contributions to creating ingenious tools for space expeditions.

Jointly developed by PolyU scientists and the China Academy of Space Technology, the tiny Camera Pointing System sat securely on top of the lunar lander to control the camera that captures images of the moon’s surface and the rover’s movements. It was deployed aboard the Chang’e-3 lander that touched down on the Moon in 2013. At only 85 cm long, 27 cm wide, 16 cm deep and weighing 2.8 kg, the system is an engineering marvel and the first such instrument made in Hong Kong for China’s lunar exploration programme. This great achievement has paved the way for the University to participate in China’s future lunar exploration programme, including the development of a surface sampling and packing system.


Going beyond our limits, PolyU has also been reaching for Mars. The research team  has long been venturing into interplanetary sampling  has developed the multi-functional Mars Rock Corer, which was carried onboard the Beagle 2 Lander in a spacecraft of European Space Agency’s  Mars Express Mission in 2003. Integrated into the design of this space tool is the quintessence of Chinese chopsticks for effective retrieval of samples from the inside of rocks. The device can grind, drill, core and grip rock samples, with energy consumption as low as 2 watts and weighing 370 grams only.


Another PolyU-developed space instrument is the Soil Preparation System (SOPSYS) which was used for the Phobos-Grunt Mission to Mars in 2011, the first Sino-Russian collaboration in interplanetary exploration. Weighing merely 400 grams and slightly larger than a cigarette pack, SOPSYS was capable of grinding and sifting Phobos rocks down to less than one millimetre in diameter for in-situ analysis under extreme and adverse conditions in the outer space; and bringing them to Earth for the study of the solar system and the formation of Mars. The purpose was to look for signs of life in the universe outside planet Earth. This invention has brought the PolyU research team a Grand Prize and a Gold Medal with the Congratulations of Jury at the 42nd International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva.

Looking into the future, PolyU will continue its relentless endeavours in conducting space research and developing engineering marvels to meet the challenges along the journey of discovering the universe.