In support of the Nation’s first lunar sample return mission, a research team at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) developed and manufactured one of the key systems for this historic undertaking, namely the “Surface Sampling and Packing System”, in collaboration with the China Academy of Space Technology. The PolyU-developed system accomplished the tasks of automatic sample collection and packaging on the lunar surface following the soft landing of the Chang’e 5 probe on 1 December 2020. The vehicle carrying the samples is currently on course back to Earth, and is expected to touch down in China’s Inner Mongolia region next week.
Chang'e-5 is the world’s first lunar-sample return mission in more than 40 years, aiming to bring back a large amount of lunar samples of up to two kilograms via robotic means. The probe adopts two methods of moon surface sampling: one uses a robotic arm for multiple-point surface sample collections, and the other is to drill underground. The team led by Professor YUNG Kai-leung, Sir Sze-yuen Chung Professor in Precision Engineering, Chair Professor of Precision Engineering and Associate Head of Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, PolyU, was tasked in 2011 to develop the “Surface Sampling and Packing System”, a comprehensive system for lunar surface sampling, packaging and sealing.Dr LAM Tai-fai, Chairman of Council, PolyU, remarked, “The collection of lunar samples is a landmark occasion in the history of our Nation’s space exploration programme. It is a great testament to our University’s cutting-edge research capability that PolyU was the only tertiary institution in Hong Kong to contribute to the Chang'e 5 mission. Furthermore, the fact that Hong Kong-based scientists at PolyU developed some of the most critical components for the project is a fantastic accomplishment for the whole city, proving that Hong Kong can play an important role in supporting our Nation in making significant strides in the fields of space exploration and science.”Mr Alfred SIT, Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the HKSAR Government, said, “Over the years, PolyU has actively participated in our Nation's space exploration projects by developing highly sophisticated space instruments for our country. In the Chang'e 5 lunar exploration project, PolyU fully demonstrated its rich experience accumulated in national and international space projects, its cutting-edge technology as well as its innovative thinking. PolyU's efforts in research are in line with and complementary to the Government's goal of developing Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology hub.”
Professor Jin-Guang TENG, PolyU President, said, “The Chang'e 5 lunar mission has been watched closely by the entire world, since it will help the scientific community uncover some of the Moon’s secrets and mysteries. I am immensely proud that PolyU researchers developed the pioneering ‘Surface Sampling and Packing System’ to facilitate the success of this milestone mission. By contributing to such a sophisticated national space project, the University has demonstrated its substantial research competence and commitment to producing breakthrough solutions that push forward the frontiers of technology and science. PolyU will continue to devote itself to the pursuit of research excellence and the creation of innovations that benefit Hong Kong, the Nation and our world.”