China's Chief Lunar Scientist Looks "Further Away"
November 25, 2012 • 3:30PM

Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar orbiter project, showed both an understanding of the "Extraterrestrial Imperative" and space science economics, in an interview with Xinhua news agency on Nov. 23. "I wish we could travel further away," he said. "By 'further away,' I mean further than 400,000 kilometers (the distance between Earth and the Moon). I hope it will be 1 billion, even 10 billion kilometers (6.2 billion miles) away from our home planet." In the eyes of Ouyang Ziyuan, Chinese will not only explore the Moon and Mars, but the Sun, Venus and Jupiter, as well, Xinhua reported. 10 billion km is almost twice the average distance of Pluto from the Sun.

Ouyang had initially focused his career on geological exploration on Earth. After studying geology in college and contributing to China's underground nuclear tests, Ouyang finally turned to his beloved career of exploring the Moon.

"The orbiters are like our eyes, realizing our dream to see the outer world," he said. "Our explorer uses stereo cameras and X-ray spectrometers to map images of the lunar surface from 200 kilometers above it." Another breakthrough made by the Chang'e-1 involves measuring the thickness of the soil of the Moon to determine the exact amount of helium-3, a resource for nuclear fusion.

"When obtaining nuclear power from helium-3 becomes a reality, the lunar resources can be used to generate electricity for more than 10,000 years for the whole world," he said.

A scientist as well as a lunar enthusiast, Ouyang believes that "what we have explored so far is just a small step in knowing the whole Moon." "The exploration we do today will have an impact on all of mankind in the future," Ouyang said.

He offered the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Apollo program (1963-1972) as an example: "The program led to the invention of more than 3,000 kinds of high technologies, boosted the country's economy and contributed to its political interests." "China's exploration of outer space has already promoted technological improvement and innovation and cultivated a great scientific team. The results of our exploration have helped many companies to make technological breakthroughs, thus expanding their market and gaining economic benefits," he said.