China exploration boom lures German researcher

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong's unique position as a gateway to China has drawn at least one researcher from the West who was eager to take part in the country's space exploration boom.

Peter Weiss, a German expert in precision engineering and deep-sea robotics, was so impressed by Polytechnic University's contribution to the Beagle 2 mission to Mars that he left his job in France in 2006 to come and take a PhD at the university. 'I heard about the Beagle 2 mission while I was in Europe and I was very impressed by the expertise of the Hong Kong team,' he said.

Over the past four years, Weiss (pictured) has worked with Professor Yung Kai-leung in developing the soil preparation system for the Phobos-Grunt mission scheduled for launch next year.

'No one knows the origin of the Martian moon Phobos,' Weiss said. 'The mission will take soil samples and return them to Earth for analysing.'

Weiss said he was excited to be a part of the unprecedented Sino-Russian mission.

'I have studied in Germany, France and the US. The support and research facilities I found at PolyU are equivalent to, if not better than, those in the West,' he said. 'And being in Hong Kong allows you to be a part of China's space development work without having to know Putonghua.'

Weiss said he believed the next space exploration breakthrough would probably happen in China.

'China has invested a lot in the field,' he said. 'Its space development programme is doing very well compared to the West. Europe has the intention and the grants, but China is the place where there are actual programmes in progress.'