HK research team takes role in Russian mission to Venus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am

A Polytechnic University-based team of space researchers has taken on projects involving missions to three planetary bodies by Russia and the mainland.

The latest project involves an ambitious Russian mission to Venus scheduled for 2017. The team's role involves modifying tools that will take soil samples.

The tools are being built by team members who are university engineers. They were designed for the mainland's Chang'e mission to the moon and Russia's flight to the Martian moon Phobos in 2009. There is no definite date for the Chang'e landing, but an orbiter is expected to be launched later year.

Team member Ng Tze-chuen said mainland space authorities would announce in November whether the team would be selected for the Chang'e landing mission.

The team also includes Yung Kai-leung, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the university, and his doctoral student, robotics specialist Peter Weiss. They will develop a system to grind and filter soil on the surface of Phobos.

The system would be modified for the Venus mission, which Dr Ng, a dentist, said was even more challenging. 'Venus is a gigantic, runaway greenhouse effect, heating up to 450 degrees Celsius on the surface, and has tremendous atmospheric pressure,' he said. 'Maybe we could use Venus to scare people into doing something about the greenhouse effect on Earth.'

Mikhail Gerasimov, a Russian Academy of Science researcher and head of contact instrumentation on the Phobos and Venus missions, said the Hong Kong team was invited because of its work on the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

'We know about the experience of this Chinese team in building mechanical devices for soil processing in space research and we invited them to design the system,' he said.