As Wang Mingxiao and his team climbed higher and higher toward the Friendship Peak in the Altay Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the trail became ever narrower and the slopes ever steeper. One of the horses lost its footing and tumbled down the mountainside, almost taking Wang with it if not for a life-saving boulder breaking their fall.
Seven days into the journey, supplies had depleted and horses had died. The team's translator and guide refused to continue on. The mission was in jeopardy. Wang, who had only just escaped death's grasp, first stood up and said, "Withdrawing is desertion! We must complete the task given by the Party, no matter how difficult!" Wang swung his equipment back on his shoulders and returned to the hiking path. Finally, he led his team to reaching the Friendship Peak and completing the mission of mapping the region.
Wang was born in Gulang, Gansu Province. In 1983, he was admitted by the PLA Academy of Surveying and Mapping. He began his work in northwest China after graduation. Making great contributions to the nation's exploration of surveying and mapping rural regions, he has received many honors and prizes from the government. He now works at the Information Center of Lanzhou Military Area Command.
In 2004, China announced it would build a railway on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Wang brought his platoon's petition and plan to Beijing to request for the mapping and surveying assignment. Emerging through trying competition, Wang's team was granted the mission to map the 1142-kilometer section from Golmud, Qinghai, to Lhasa.
However, a series of technical problems lay ahead. According to the international standards, the margin of error of mapping under dynamic conditions for a railway was within one meter, much more precise than the 18-meter domestic standard at the time.
Wang immediately organized a panel of experts and conducted experiments at different altitudes, times of day and under various climatic conditions. Wang and his team covered the mountain ranges and worked 15 to 16 hours daily. Finally, Wang boldly proposed and implemented the dynamic real-time positioning technology never before used in such missions. This allowed for the speed and accuracy of mapping reaching international standards. Wang led his squad of 15 to complete their assignment in 150 days – 90 days before the deadline, and set five different records in China's mapping history.
In 2006, Wang's team was assigned to the mapping mission of the basin of the Nujiang River in Tibet. The operation area covered a distance over 1,000 kilometers. The group scaled mountains and forded streams. Through traditional mapping methods, the task could have taken up to 10 years. Instead, Wang was able to receive satisfactory surveying results after only two months of field experiments, receiving numerous international awards and recognition.
With the rapid development of new weapons technology, satellite imagery and real-time navigation system, precision has become one of the most important issues to mapping experts all over the world.
In 2002, the research and development of unnamed weaponry met obstacles due to unreliable digital geographic information of the plateau and the Gobi desert. Wang shouldered the burden and immediately formed a research group, making a series of breakthroughs to formulate procedures of computer-integrated manufacturing, establishing methods of calculating error margins and rate of accuracy. Through rigorous efforts, Wang eventually developed the high-precision digital elevation models (DEM), which was exclusive for the weapon.
To make the maps vivid like TV images, Wang combined the satellite remote sensing technology, geographic data, three-dimensional simulation technology and other multimedia technologies to achieve seamless interaction between two-dimensional imagery and 3-D models.
Now 47, Wang has ranged over 200 mountains, crossed more than 1,000 rivers, and completed above 30 major mapping and surveying missions. Still, more tasks of great import will be entrusted to Wang, and long trails lie yet ahead of this master cartographer.