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Scientist advocates greater cooperation among the stars

China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-12 10:48
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Wu Ji, chairman of the Chinese Society of Space Research. [Photo/Xinhua]

A thousand people may have a thousand answers as to why we explore space. For 64-year-old Chinese scientist Wu Ji, exploring space has a more self-reflective meaning.

"When one enters space, one will realize that human beings are an indivisible whole. Regardless of skin color, they have far more in common than they have differences," says Wu, chairman of the Chinese Society of Space Research.

It is under this belief that, for more than two decades, Wu has been persisting in one thing-promoting international cooperation in the field of space science.

In July, at the 44th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research in Greece, Wu was awarded the International Cooperation Medal, which recognizes scientists who have made outstanding contributions to international cooperation in space science.

This is the first time in the 38 years since the award was established that it has been presented to a Chinese scientist.

Like many space scientists, Wu's initial dream was illuminated by a "star".

The sight of China's first satellite Dongfanghong-1 in the night sky over 50 years ago lingered in Wu's memory. From then on, he aspired to explore space further.

In the 1980s, Wu studied at the European Space Agency, where he stepped through the door of space science research. "Many of the partners I worked with back then have become my lifelong friends and I built up contacts for later international cooperation," he says.

In 1994, after completing his postdoctoral research in Denmark, Wu returned to work in China.

In 1997, Wu took charge of the Double Star space mission, the first space science program in China. Collaborating with the ESA's Cluster mission, the program achieved six-point coordinated measurements of the Earth's magnetosphere for the first time in human history. The joint international team won the Laurels Team Achievement Award by the International Academy of Astronautics in 2010.

Wu believes that the most important thing in the process of international cooperation is communication and trust. "Because of the differences in management style and culture, there was friction at the beginning, but it worked out later through cooperation."

In 2011, the Chinese Academy of Sciences initiated a space science project. As the then director of the National Space Science Center, under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wu led the special project that has produced a series of scientific satellites, including the Dark Matter Particle Explorer, also known as Wukong, the world's first quantum satellite; Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, also known as Mozi; the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, as well as the Shijian-10 recoverable satellite.

"China is a big country and should contribute to human civilization. Scientific discoveries are shared by humanity, and China's breakthroughs in frontier science are the achievements of all mankind," Wu says.

He believes that international cooperation should be actively pursued in frontier science fields such as space science, because funding is limited in a single country, and cooperation can avoid duplication of investment and enable all parties to gain greater benefits.

"In space weather research, for example, no single country can obtain complete data on its own. Therefore, international cooperation is essential and indispensable," Wu adds.

His enthusiasm for international cooperation was not dampened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Wu chaired a forum on space science cooperation in the city of Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi province.

During the forum, Wu and more than 30 global scientists and management experts called for deeper space science cooperation.

According to Wu, China and other countries will cooperate extensively in the field of space science in the future.

"The Chinese space station will be open to foreign astronauts. It will be part of mankind's journey outside Earth and will contribute to building a community with a shared future for humanity," he says.

Moreover, China will also offer opportunities to carry scientific instruments of other countries on the Chang'e-6 lunar mission and asteroid probe mission, and will jointly initiate the construction of an international lunar research station with Russia, Wu says.

"China's new scientific satellite program for 2025 to 2030 is now under discussion, and several of them will include international cooperation," he says.

Wu is now working to promote cooperation among China, the United States, Japan, Finland, Russia, Brazil, and other countries, to establish a constellation of 10 small satellites to probe the Earth's radiation belts and provide a theoretical basis for space weather forecasting.

In addition to being a scientist, Wu has another identity-science fiction writer. In his books, he envisions a future in which more people travel in space.

"When people look back at the Earth from outer space, their perception will definitely change. They will love their planet even more, and become an advocate of building a community with a shared future," he says.


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