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Hong Kong-made Space Tools on Display

A replica of the Hong Kong-developed Mars Rock Grinder/Corer, the first tool to drill into the surface of Mars, will be displayed from Aug. 1 to Aug. 31.

The replica is part of an exhibition, "Mars Express - Contribution from Hong Kong," at the Hong Kong Space Museum. It will also feature replicas of the Beagle 2 lander, which carried the rock grinder/corer to Mars, and a number of space tools developed by Hong Kong scientists and engineers. All exhibits are on loan from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

The exhibition covers Mars Express, the first planetary mission of the European Space Agency, and the development of the Mars RockGrinder/Corer and its important role in the study of exobiology --the search for the origins of life on Earth, and in the Universe.

Mars Express was launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan by a Soyez-Fregat launcher on June 3 and is expected to arrive at Mars around Christmas. It is composed of an orbiting spacecraft and its instruments, Beagle 2 lander and the launcher.

Mars Express will search for sub-surface water from orbit and signs of life with the Beagle 2 lander on the surface of Mars. The task of collecting rock and soil samples for analysis will mainly be executed by the Mars Rock Grinder/Corer and the mole on the robotic arm of Beagle 2.

Seven scientific instruments onboard the orbiting spacecraft will perform a series of remote sensing experiments designed to shed new light on the Martian atmosphere and the planet's surface composition and geology.

The Mars Rock Grinder/Corer is the result of years of research and development by a 12-member team led by four scholars from the PolyU. It was produced using state-of-the-art facilities at the PolyU Industrial Center. Nobel laureate in physics Yang Chen-ning is the scientific adviser to the project.

The Mars Rock Grinder/Corer integrates the characteristics of Chinese chopsticks into the design for effective retrieval of rock samples. The device grinds, drills, cores and grips rock samples, with as little as two watts of energy consumption and weighs only 370 grams -- much lighter and more energy-efficient than similar instruments.

(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2003)

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