China launched its second scientific expedition to the North Pole Tuesday.
The "Snow Dragon'' vessel, with a complement of 115 scientists, reporters and crewmen on board, set sail from Liaoning Province's Dalian.
As well, a leading Chinese scientist confirmed to China Daily yesterday that a domestic-made robot will be used for the first time to conduct complicated underwater tasks under the harsh natural conditions of polar areas.
ROV, a robot produced by the Shenyang Institute of Automation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, accompanied the team yesterday, said Wang Gang, a leading designer of the invention.
Wang declined to disclose much about ROV's specific tasks during the 74-day mission. But he did say proudly that ROV can bring such equipment as cameras and sonar machines underwater to outline the seabed topography of the Arctic Ocean, measure the thickness of the ice in the area, and take readings of the temperature and salinity of the water.
Most importantly, he said, ROV can dive to as deep as 300 meters in freezing temperatures, while the best human diver might find the depth of 100 meters already a grave challenge in that area.
"The robot can stay in the water for as long as necessary and transmit back accurate pictures and data just as it `sees' and `hears','' Wang said.
Therefore, if everything goes on as planned, ROV will prove to be a great asset during the mission, which aims to establish a permanent research station on Norway's Svalbard Island near the North Pole. The goal of the team is to research the ocean's chemical composition, biology, geography and climate.
According to Wang, China's research on robotics ranks among the most advanced in the world, especially those designed to carry out various underwater tasks. He said as an example that China is among a few countries worldwide that have produced robots capable of working in waters as deep as 6,000 meters.
Although not many robots have been used in the country, mainly due to the considerable costs of robots and the lack of qualified operators, an increase has taken place following the country's stepped-up efforts in exploring its vast "blue domain,'' he said.
(China Daily July 16, 2003)