Forceps designed by a Hong Kong dentist have become a major space exploration tool for international agencies. Dr Ng Tze-chuen originally designed them in 1990 to pick up particles during surgery. But a life-long interest in space travel - and a little help from a Nobel-winning physicist - has led to the development of the first complete tool kit for biological experiments and gathering of samples in outer space. The first successful use of the forceps - by cosmonauts on the space station Mir in 1995 - was not revealed until yesterday because of a secret agreement with the Russian Space Agency. Dr Ng said a passion for precision instrument designs gave him the idea for the kit. 'I used to tell space scientists what they were doing was at the frontier of human knowledge,' he said. 'Now I can say I am taking a part, however small, in their enterprise. The kit caters for all basic experiments likely to be performed in space stations and shuttles.' The mechanical system involves more than 70 inter-connected parts, from precision claws which collect samples on planet surfaces to holders for sample measurements and animal experiments. The set was built by Polytechnic University engineer Professor Yung Kai-leung, who was advised by the co-recipient of the 1957 Nobel Prize for physics, Professor Yang Chen-ning. NASA has ordered 20 pieces from the set for testing in October and the European Space Agency has also expressed interest.