All scientists and scholars strive to make new discoveries, but not every one of them demonstrates the same degree of devotion and perseverance as Professor Yang Mengfei. For over 30 years, the chief commander and chief designer of the Chang’e 5 lunar probe has invested all his time and energy on our country’s space expeditions. In recognition of his selfless dedication and contributions to the Nation, he was honoured with National Ethical Role Model Awards that celebrate citizens who possess outstanding moral character. His brave commitment to take on challenges and his pioneering spirit to venture into the unknown have been highly commended, making him a role model and moral exemplar for all to learn from.
Professor Yang’s strong interest in aerospace technologies can be traced back to his early obsession with numbers since childhood. As his father was an accountant who frequently used an abacus for calculations, Professor Yang developed a strong interest in numbers early on. Upon graduating from high school, he decided to enrol in a computer programme at the Northwest Institute of Telecommunication Engineering, Xi’an, (the precursor of Xidian University), earning his Bachelor of Engineering degree in computer architecture in 1982. In the same year, he was accepted by the Beijing Institute of Control Engineering at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), and he acquired his Master of Engineering degree in computer applications from CAST in 1985. In 2005, he was conferred a PhD degree in computer science and technology by Tsinghua University, Beijing.
Looking back on his illustrious career that spans over three decades, Professor Yang said there were three factors that fuelled his passion – firstly, the power of our motherland and his love for our country; secondly, the momentum derived from disruptive innovations; and lastly, an unwavering determination in doing everything well and executing every detail perfectly.
His selfless dedication was manifested by the innumerable sleepless nights he spent in the lab trying to overcome complex technical issues for China’s first extraterrestrial sample return mission. The Chang’e 5 lunar mission lasted over 20 days, during which Professor Yang spent up to 20 hours each day on the control panel with other designers and mission controllers, catching only three or four hours of sleep each day. At the critical stage of the automatic collection and packing of lunar samples, he even worked continuously for over 40 hours without a break. Being a perfectionist who tries ceaselessly to eliminate any possible flaw in every solution and requires the highest standards in every detail, he once famously said, “Technologies should be thoroughly understood, products should be transparent and without redundancy, processes should be under control.” It was precisely his meticulous attitude and stringent requirements that made the Chang’e 5 mission a great success, enabling humankind to bring lunar rock samples back to earth again after 44 years.
In addition to leading the spacecraft system team for Chang’e 5 and the upcoming missions in the fourth phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme, Professor Yang is also a Researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology, an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a Life Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics. A proud owner of over 40 invention patents, he has published over 70 papers in world-class scientific journals or conferences, with his research interests ranging from fault tolerant computing, to spacecraft control and spacecraft system technologies. Professor Yang has garnered the National Young Expert Outstanding Contribution Award, and he made it to the Top 100 Young People list issued by the Central State Government of China. In recognition of his outstanding achievements, his alma mater Xidian University named him the Honorary Dean of the School of Computer Science and Technology, Director of the Joint Laboratory of Aerospace Computing and Electronic Technology, and Huashan Scholar Chair Professor.
Working closely with PolyU scholars and researchers for Chang’e 5 and upcoming lunar missions, Professor Yang is truly a living example to others for his patriotic sentiments and selfless dedication to his profession and our country, propelling the advancement of aerospace technologies and the progress of mankind in general. Chairman, I have the great honour of presenting Professor Yang Mengfei for the conferment of the degree of Doctor of Engineering honoris causa.
Chairman Lam, President Teng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to join the Doctor of Philosophy and Honorary Degrees Conferment Ceremony today, and I am very honoured by the conferment of this honorary doctoral degree by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Nearly 12 years ago, the automatic return of samples from the moon’s surface, the Chang’e 5 Mission of our country, began to be implemented. In developing the Chang’e 5 lunar probe, we were honoured to collaborate with Professor Yung Kai-leung and his team, which produced the Chang’e 5 lunar surface samplers and the lunar surface sample sealing and packaging system. These are crucial components of the surface sampler system of the lunar probe. With the utmost support from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Professor Yung Kai-leung and his team managed to overcome technical problems including optimized weight reduction, high temperature conditions on the moon’s surface, etc. to smoothly complete the research work. The components performed well on the moon’s surface and fulfilled the mission’s objectives, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Professor Yung Kai-leung and his team contributed significantly to the Chang’e 5 Mission. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Professor Yung Kai-leung and his team.
40 years ago, I graduated from the Northwest Institute of Telecommunication Engineering (the precursor of Xidian University). Passionate about aerospace exploration, I was admitted to the graduate school at the Beijing Institute of Control Engineering at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). This was how my strong interest in aerospace exploration began. Participating in the research work of the new generation retrievable satellite, the Shenzhou spacecraft, and the third phase of moon exploration convinced me that the aerospace industry is strengthened by the rapid development of our country. I am greatly indebted to the opportunities provided, and I am immensely proud of getting involved in the aerospace industry. All my gratitude goes to our motherland and its people.
I am also grateful to everyone who has provided me with guidance, support, and assistance, especially my parents who not only cultivated my interest in numbers and introduced me to computer science, but also taught me life lessons to become a better person.
Looking forward, there are plenty of opportunities in the aerospace industry. Along with the implementation of the fourth phase of the lunar probe and planet exploration project, our collaboration with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University will go deeper. Let us move forward hand in hand, and contribute remarkably to our country, a strong player in the aerospace industry.
Last but not least, I wish you all good health and prosperous years ahead.
Thank you very much.
The Honorary Degree Recipients
In alphabetical order of last name