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[Science and Technology Daily] COSE contributes to the first bud on the moon

The latest 3D reconstruction image shows that the first bud planted on the moon has two leaves. A picture from the Internet

On November 5, 2019, the Center of Space Exploration, the Ministry of Education (hereinafter referred to as COSE) celebrated its 10th birthday. Not long ago, the plants planted by the research and development team of Chang’e-4 biological science payload experiment of COSE made another sensation across the world. The latest 3D reconstruction image shows that the first human plant on the moon has two leaves.

The head of COSE said that although the bud on the moon had withered, the loading tank for the experiment had been operating normally on the moon. This shows that its sealing performance, reliability and safety meet the requirements for lunar surface survival, and which has laid a solid foundation for the future creation of extraterrestrial ecosystem environment and human survival.

Such achievements are exciting. But it is surprising to many people that none of the team members who have undertaken this Project is specialized in aerospace. What’s more, COSE under the Ministry of Education has coordinated the efforts of 29 key universities in China, which has formed a "Super University Alliance" that provides independent innovation power for the front line of deep space exploration in China.

Ten years of efforts to build up COSE

On January 15, 2019, Chongqing University announced that the Chang’e-4 biological science payload experiment undertaken by COSE under the Ministry of Education built up utilizing resources of Chongqing University has seen its first bud on the moon.

We have worked for this for ten years!" Said Xie Gengxin, deputy director of COSE, the Ministry of Education, chief designer of Chang’e-4 biological science payload experiment and president of the Institute of Advanced Technology of Chongqing University.

In 2008, in order to integrate the universities’ advantageous resources, serve the major project of "lunar exploration and manned space engineering", and explore the building of interdisciplinary teams, Academician Zhou Ji, then the minister of education, and academician Zhao Qinping, vice minister of education, proposed to establish a collaborative inter-university, inter-agency and interdisciplinary innovation platform to undertake the task of deep research and development of space exploration technology and engineering. Zhong Zhihua, then president of Hunan University, launched bold exploration and invited Xie Gengxin, who was then carrying out his postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, to return to China and participate in the preparation of COSE. Xie had been dreaming of serving the country since he was a child and so he agreed without hesitation.

"It is our goal to make better use of the advantageous disciplines of key domestic universities to serve the development of China’s deep space exploration and cultivate talents." Xie Gengxin said that COSE was officially inaugurated on November 5, 2009, with joint efforts of 29 key universities directly under the Ministry of Education, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing University, Wuhan University, East China Normal University, and Shandong University, and 15 enterprises and institutions including the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Academy of Space Technology and Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. Zhong Zhihua serves as the director.

Now, Chongqing University serves as the construction organization of COSE, which has set up 13 professional sub-centers in Tsinghua University, Peking University, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing University and other universities, and has set up a Council and an Academic Committee according to the needs of decision-making, management and technical consultation. The director responsibility system under the leadership of the Council is adopted.

"Such a combination is loose but not scattered, and helps to build a bridge between various universities and the aerospace field." Xie said that the Council was the top decision-making body of COSE, and was composed of relevant heads of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, and the Equipment Development Department of People’s Republic of China Central Military Commission. It is mainly responsible for determining the overall development direction and objectives of COSE, formulating development plans, and coordinating and integrating various resources.

Academician Sun Jiadong wrote an inscription for COSE: To strengthen basic research and improve the independent innovation ability of colleges and universities. Xie Gengxin said that this actually best showed the initial intention and goal of the establishment of COSE, which was to build COSE into an interdisciplinary resource integration and scientific and technological innovation platform, a window for China’s deep space exploration engineering services, and an internationally advanced and domestically first-rate center for deep space exploration technology research and development

Universities playing a role by contributing scientific research findings

In addition to Chang’e-4 biological science payload experiment, COSE has made a variety of other achievements in the field of deep space exploration of China.

Led by Academician Zhong Zhihua, the Project Team developed the "four-wheel three-axis lunar rover". The vehicle has its independent intellectual property rights, and has passed tests and verifications carried out in an environment similar to that of the lunar surface. Compared with the six-wheel lunar rover commonly used by foreign countries, the vehicle has better performance in terms of turning, climbing and obstacle crossing.

COSE has also designed a "manned lunar rover" with Chinese traditional cultural elements and an all-new appearance structure. "Now there are four organizations in China that are engaged in advance research and development, and we hope that it will be selected into the national program and carry out exploration on the moon with our astronauts on board." In addition to the manned lunar rover, they have also developed the Mars-concept vehicle, Xie said.

COSE has been actively following up the progress and technological development of international deep space exploration, organizing universities to undertake research and development tasks of deep space exploration technology and engineering, and carrying out international cooperation." Xie Gengxin said that by now, COSE had completed lunar exploration research projects such as "key technology and principle prototype development of sampling mechanism", and "attitude simulation platform system development of lander". The member organizations of COSE have also given full play to the advantages of their respective colleges and universities, and various advanced research results and technologies have been successfully applied to Chang’e-2. The CMOS camera series optical lens developed by Zhejiang University, the metal layered composite microfilament developed by Beijing University of Science and Technology, and the light aluminum matrix composite material for telemetry and remote sensing instrument developed by Shanghai Jiaotong University are some of the examples.

Cultivating all-round talents by engaging them in different areas

The human dream of space is being realized step by step, and talents are indispensable for realizing dreams.

COSE has greatly promoted the cultivation of talents through the cooperation of universities, disciplinary collaboration, and the industry-university-research cooperation," said Xie Gengxin.

Zhang Yuanxun, born in 1984, is an associate professor of the School of Aerospace Engineering of Chongqing University and the chief designer of COSE under the Ministry of Education. As a Ph.D. graduate of mechanical design engineering of Chongqing University, he never thought he would be engaged in the aerospace field. At the time of graduation, COSE under the Ministry of Education moved to Chongqing University, and Zhang Yuanxun was introduced to COSE.

I am engaged in industrial design, and I have participated in the overall design of spacecraft payload, the development of manned lunar rover, and the design of special robots." Zhang Yuanxun said that aerospace research was a highly comprehensive discipline, and every research process was a process of continuous learning of him and his team. The design of load tank involved many areas such as biology, energy, materials, and thermal control and every research project could only be completed through disciplinary studies.

Zhang Yuanxun said that when they encountered difficult question in the biological science payload experiment, they would ask experts from relevant organizations for advice. The team successively went to more than 50 enterprises and institutions in 15 provinces for technical exchanges. "The project is being expanded with contributions of various organizations, and the talent team also grows up as the research goes on".

It is reported that COSE implements the double-tutor system in the postgraduate education and training, and carries out joint training with the organizations like China Academy of Space Technology and Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology

While carrying out scientific research and personnel training, COSE attaches great importance to the popularization and publicity of the achievements of China’s manned spaceflight and lunar exploration projects. The team has been to the United States, Italy, France, the United Kingdom and other countries for many times to carry out science popularization exchanges, organized domestic universities to prepare science popularization books, carried out science popularization reports for primary and middle school students in many places in China, and carried out science popularization activities such as creative design of lunar rover. In 2019 alone, the team has delivered nearly 40 science popularization reports in primary and middle schools nationwide.

There are many unknown mysteries and resources available to human beings in the vast space, and we hope that through the efforts of COSE, we take human beings closer to the space," said Xie Gengxin.

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