Government and Policy

Scientists lobbying for dark matter space mission

Updated: 2009-12-29 21:48
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BEIJING: Chinese scientists are lobbying for greater government support for a groundbreaking project that would see the launch of a satellite to investigate mysterious dark matter in space.

The Center for Space Science and Applied Research (CSSAR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was focusing on developing China's first astronomical satellite to prove the existence of dark matter.

"This would be a major breakthrough in the field of basic science which has been dormant for decades since Einstein's Theory of Relativity," said center director Wu Ji.

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Dark matter and dark energy represent the vast majority of the mass in the observable universe, but their presence is only inferred from their gravitational effects on visible matter. Dark matter is believed to play a central role in galaxy evolution and the formation of universe.

"Studies of dark matter might lead to discoveries of unknown materials that could be used by humanity," said Wu.

"The hope is that we could provide direct evidence of its existence and understand more about its nature through exploration carried out by the astronomical satellite."

He said Chinese scientists were doing well in theories related to dark matter, but empirical evidence was lacking.

They had no schedule for the satellite project, and Wu said they were appealing for greater investment from the state.

Wu said most state investment was going to utility satellites (such as meteorological satellites) and manned space missions.

Professor Jacques Blamont, adviser to the director general of the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES), in a visit to the CSSAR Monday, endorsed Wu's call for greater resources.

"China should give priority to science exploration in its space endeavour," said Blamont.

He said good scientists should be given greater opportunities to experiment on space missions and to share and analyze data with scientists abroad.

Blamont was invited by the CSSAR as an "Einstein Professor" to give a lecture Monday on new methods for planetary exploration.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) each year invites about 10 top scientists for a fortnight academic visit, and to give lectures. These scientists are awarded of "Einstein Professorship".