NASA senior engineer: Mars travel is just around the corner

Teng-Kai Liu, a senior engineer from Taiwan‘s space agency, participated in the design of the Mars landing vehicle “Trailblazer”. (Courtesy of Teng-Kai Liu)

NASA’s unmanned rover Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, and NASA senior engineer Teng-Kai Liu, who participated in the design of Perseverance from Taiwan, said that travel to Mars will be possible in the near future.

Senior engineer from Taiwan’s NASA, Teng-Kai Liu, participated in the design of the Mars landing “Perseverance”. (Provided by Teng-Kai Liu)

Teng-Kai Liu has been working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for 30 years, and has been involved in the design of every Mars program spacecraft system since 1997.

Trailblazer was launched last year, and after a 400 million kilometer journey that took nearly seven months, it landed on Mars on the 18th. In an interview with Epoch Times, Teng-Kai Liu humbly described himself as one of several thousand people who do not claim credit. He has been involved in all aspects of spacecraft design at JPL, and this is the ninth mission, with the previous eight being successful. He has also served as a manager, leading a group of people on large programs. The first mission was the MESUR Pathfinder, which explored Mars in 1997.

Teng-Kai Liu, a senior engineer from Taiwan’s space agency, was involved in the design of the Mars landing vehicle “Trail”. (Courtesy of Teng-Kai Liu)

“Reliability” determines success or failure

The most important focus of the design for the successful landing of Trailfinder is “reliability”. Liu Dengkai said, to do things must be achieved, regardless of any external influence reason can not be used as an excuse.

“The most difficult thing about landing on Mars is the environment, which is not controlled by people, so the design must exclude all difficulties and consider all kinds of natural environment.” He said, “the spring by the hurricane, is the minimum rate of contingency, the choice of the descent site, can not fall in the high mountains, can not have a large rock, etc., are to be able to accurately grasp, so before doing a lot of research and simulation, regardless of the environment, to be able to have a certain percentage.”

He revealed that the unmanned probe “Trail” all act to accept the instructions and control of NASA. Precise design plans are needed to indicate where the probe will descend. The descent location involves many technical aspects, such as navigation, control, computers, software and other various kinds of cooperation. This Time the probe reached the center about 1 km or so, which is a remarkable achievement. “But during the period to do a lot of work, to overcome a lot of difficulties, to be very sure of the accuracy, reliability to reach (the destination), there can not be any mistakes.”

Liu Dengkai pointed out that the plan began in 2012, because there is a lot of water on Mars, there used to be gas, the bottom of the water will flow, so the biggest goal is to explore “whether there was the possibility of Life before, whether there was an environment that supports the existence of life”. Therefore, the probe will take samples from Mars, put them in test tubes and bury them on Mars, and bring them back to Earth in 2030. At present, 17 test tubes are prepared, according to the different terrain to do different allocations, when the time to bring back. Next, he will participate in the work of retrieving samples.

Hot Topic: Immigration to Mars

“Planet Migration” is a project that NASA has been planning for a long time. However, Liu Dengkai said, because 96% of the atmosphere of Mars is carbon dioxide, oxygen only about 0.2%, nitrogen accounted for about 2%, not suitable for human survival; as for travel to Mars, just around the corner. Time is far away, but I believe that 50 years later, humans can definitely complete the journey to Mars.

Taiwan-U.S. cooperation again success

The “Trail” successfully landed on Mars, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Facebook on February 21: “Two of the team for this mission are from Taiwan, Dr. Teng-Kai Liu, who designed the spacecraft, and Dr. Yen Cheng, who is responsible for controlling the rover. There are many Taiwanese serving at NASA, and these people are the pride of Taiwan.”

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) also mentioned on its Facebook page: the successful launch of the weather satellite “Fowler 7” in 2019. “This mission also represents another milestone in U.S.-Taiwan cooperation, while demonstrating Taiwan’s contributions to the world!”

Cultivating the next generation of Chinese

Liu Dengkai said he was introduced to the space field by a friend by chance. I had started my own business before, but I was not the right person to start my own business. When I saw the Magellan go into space, I was more determined that I could contribute to the field with my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.

He said, “In the past 30 years, the whole working environment, personnel and what I want to accomplish are all very attractive, and there are computer, mechanical, electrical and space talents in JPL, and we have integrated our strength to become a strong group, from the smallest screw to the spacecraft, and we have a great influence on the study of Mars, which will be written in textbooks in the future. “

After decades of experience, also let him adjust his outlook on life from time to time, “open-minded, share with others, perseverance, and a wide range of rivers”.

Many years ago, he thought about the young generation in Taiwan and mainland China, living in a comfortable and comfortable environment, but in many aspects need to follow up on Europe and the United States, such as students are too formal, not lively, not active, so he encouraged young students to be more curious, in addition to books can be involved in a wide range of information, more active, play imagination; mentality more open, set the right goal to actively enter.

To help students, he has set up the “Curious Students” platform, a live program for university and graduate students, with direct participation and hosting by students from around the world. Through the latest web technology, he interviews senior scholars from around the world to answer students’ questions, and is a place where the future elite of society can be nurtured. He hopes that schools around the world will come together to participate and bring the curiosity of young people into full play to create a beautiful world of the future.

In addition, he also set up my-English Class: worried about meeting foreigners afraid to speak English, afraid of not being able to speak correct English on the right occasion, so set up a cloud English learning platform, by professional English teachers correct English, in the cloud to help each other learn diversified English usage, develop English communication and self-confidence, find their own unique way of learning English, learn English skills, no longer avoid English, feel the fun of learning and feel the future of the world. Stop avoiding English and feel the fun and reward of learning. Conversation in English at your own pace, anywhere in the world. You can learn about attending at

Dr. Liu Dengkai said that even though he is busy at work, he is doing everything himself for the sake of future generations. Since the establishment of these platforms, the results have been remarkable and he hopes that more people will benefit.