China launches first dark matter satellite

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, December 17, 2015
Adjust font size:

Chang said Wukong has the widest observation spectrum and highest energy resolution of any dark-matter probe in the world.

The new satellite's observation spectrum is approximately nine times wider than the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer onboard the International Space Station, while its energy resolution is at least three times higher than its international peers, according to Chang.

However, he cautioned, there is no guaranteed success in the mission.

"We have not entirely figured out the physical properties of dark matter, so no one is one hundred percent sure that the satellite can find it," Chang said.

"As long as Wukong keeps working, it will open a new window for our search," he said, adding that the satellite could also serve as a cosmic ray telescope and be used to study the origin, transportation and acceleration of cosmic rays.

Chang, who is also vice director of the Purple Mountain Observatory in Nanjing, said it is hard to predict when dark matter could eventually be found and how to utilize its discovery.

"Only when we understand the nature of dark matter, will we know how it will change the future," he said.

Foundation for innovation

Thursday's launch, the 221st mission by the Long March rocket series, is a new step in China's multi-billion-dollar space endeavors, which have become a source of surging national pride and a marker of China's global stature and technical expertise.

The country sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, the third nation after Russia and the United States. to achieve manned space travel independently. In 2008, astronauts aboard Shenzhou-7 made China's first space walk. There are plans for a permanent space station, expected around 2022.

"China is already a major player in space. To seek further progress in the field, however, we have to launch more space science satellites," said Wu Ji, director of National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

China's first satellite was launched into space 45 years ago, and since a number of communication, remote sensing and navigation satellites have followed. Yet, it has very few satellites that are solely designed for scientific research.

Hopefully, this looks set to change.

According to Ai Changchun, Wukong chief engineer, Thursday's mission is the first large-scale space science project in the world led by Chinese scientists.

Wukong is first of four scientific satellites under a Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) space program.

The other three satellites -- one for quantum science experiments, another for microgravity research and space life science, and a hard X-ray telescope which will observe black holes, neutron stars and other phenomena -- will be launched next year.

Wu said development of the other three satellites is going well.

"Space science is an inseparable part of the innovation-driven development of China," said Wu.

Current investment in fundamental research only accounts for about five percent of overall research investment. Whereas in the United States and Germany, that figure is 40 percent and 28 percent.

"If you want to innovate, you must have knowledge of the sciences," Wu said.

"China [...] should not only be the user of space knowledge, we should also be the creator," he said.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
   Previous   1   2  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from