China plans space program to search beyond solar system

Updated: Dec 13, 2019 Print
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An artist's conception of an exoplanet beyond our own solar system known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, which lies about 48.6 light years from Earth is shown in this handout photo obtained August 19, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

China has started preliminary research for a futuristic scientific program scheduled to be launched around 2030 to search for potentially habitable planets outside our solar system, according to a key figure in the nation's space industry.

Yuan Jie, general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, said that the Miyin, or Voice Searching, program has been listed as one of the company's top priorities to be realized around 2030. He was speaking to 500 students at Beihang University in Beijing on Thursday.

Yuan's company is a State-owned space conglomerate and the leading contractor for almost all of China's space endeavors ranging from the Shenzhou manned programs to Chang'e lunar expeditions.

He said the program intends to send spacecraft carrying telescopes and other cutting-edge detectors to help scientists find potentially habitable exoplanets near the solar system and analyze their habitability.

Researchers will also be allowed to conduct spectroscopic survey and explore the distribution of water on planets inside the solar system, according to him.

Yuan explained that key technologies of the program will include distributed synthetic aperture array and high-sensitive, high-stable detection in extremely cold environment.

He said the program is expected to open a new chapter in particular realms in the astronomical observation and is likely to bring breakthroughs to the country's scientific efforts.

This is the first time that a high-ranking figure inside China's space circle has disclosed the country's attempt to find Earth-like planets around sun-like stars.

Before Yuan, a handful of pieces of information published by local authorities and State-owned institutes in China had unveiled some facets about the Miyin program.

A statement released in May by the Qian Xuesen Laboratory under China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing said the program was initiated in May 2018. It involves several academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering as well as multiple preeminent institutes such as Peking University, Nanjing University and Dalian University of Technology.

A news release published by Xidian University in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, quoted Meng Xiaojing, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying that the development methods, program phases and goals have been set and organizations involved in it would deepen their exchanges and cooperation.

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