29th November 2023 – (Hong Kong) China’s space programme took an assertive leap forward this week as a delegation of taikonauts and aerospace experts embarked on a six-day visit to the Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of Hong Kong and Macao. The visit, initiated by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), aims to strengthen ties and promote cooperation in aerospace exploration.
This visit, the first of its kind since the dawn of China’s space station era, comes 11 years after a similar delegation visited the SARs following the successful manned space docking mission with the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and Tiangong-1 lab module.
Invited by the SAR governments, the 17-strong delegation comprises key figures in the field of manned space engineering, including taikonauts Liu Boming and Wang Yaping. Numerous activities and meetings with related SAR departments are on the agenda, according to an announcement from the China Manned Space Agency.
Deputy Director of the China Manned Space Agency, Lin Xiqiang, highlighted the shared objective of this visit during a press briefing. He stated that the aim is for the people of Hong Kong and Macao to better understand the latest developments in China’s manned space programme, and to encourage greater participation from the SARs in this national endeavour.
Hong Kong and Macao, both possessing strong capabilities in aerospace science and engineering, have ample opportunities to contribute to China’s space development programme, asserted Song Zhongping, a renowned space analyst.
Lin underscored the importance of strengthening international cooperation in manned space projects. He outlined China’s commitment to managing its space station effectively, striving to become a leading aerospace nation, and contributing to humanity’s exploration of the universe’s mysteries.
Hong Kong and Macao have already been active participants in China’s manned space programme. Lin noted that under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, taikonauts from these SARs might soon find themselves aboard China’s Tiangong Space Station.
Lin also revealed that SAR sectors have actively contributed to the selection of the fourth cohort of payload specialists, the solicitation of space station science and application projects, and the research and development of a manned lunar rover, all with promising results.
Song elaborated on the potential for SAR institutions to join existing major space projects, either developing components or leveraging the mainland’s satellite manufacturing capabilities to produce their own payloads.
The mainland is also willing to provide training for future payload specialists and taikonauts from Hong Kong and Macao, noted Song.
The excitement amongst the local populace was palpable as Vanessa Dang, vice president of the Hong Kong Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Association, expressed her pride and nationalistic feelings at participating in some of the delegation’s events.
The Chinese space station is open to worldwide cooperation, and discussions are underway with various international space agencies, added Lin.
During their stay, the delegation will participate in a public welcome performance at the Hong Kong Coliseum, with 5,000 free tickets distributed to local residents.
In addition, an exhibition of lunar samples collected during the Chang’e-5 mission will run in Macao until 9 December, as part of a series of activities designed to popularise science and technology.
Tai Kin Ip, director of the Economic and Technological Development Bureau of the Macao SAR government, expressed optimism that cooperation between the SAR government and CNSA would continue to support scientific research, technical applications, talent training, and international communication in the aerospace industry.
A ceremony to commemorate the “Macao Science 1” satellite, China’s first high-precision geomagnetic field detection satellite, was also held, marking a significant technological advancement for the country.
The project, a collaboration between the CNSA and the Macao SAR government, is set to accelerate the transformation of Macao’s economic and social development model while enhancing its influence in the domestic and international scientific and technological community, the National Space Administration said.