Pham Anh Tuan, Director of the National Satellite Centre, spoke to Khoa hoc & Doi song (Science and Life) newspaper about the importance of space technology.
What are the benefits that space technology and satellite manufacturing can bring to the society?
Viet Nam has a long north-to-south coastline with multiple regions with different climatic and geographical conditions. Thus, Viet Nam is one of the most disaster-affected countries in the world.
Losses from disasters make up about 1.5 per cent of Viet Nam's GDP – about US$1.5 billion, together with hundreds of deaths annually.
Therefore, disaster monitoring is an indispensable task. Effective utilisation of data from earth observation satellites will significantly contribute to reducing disaster loss and damages.
Specifically, being active in satellite images, we would regularly update storm and flood conditions so that we would have timely and effective warning to protect people's lives and properties, reducing cost for search and rescue.
Once working well, the application of satellite technology will help decrease 10 per cent of damage caused by natural disasters every year. Currently, Viet Nam has to purchase satellite images from abroad at a huge cost. With its own satellite, Viet Nam can take satellite images at predefined location and time for disaster monitoring, as well as ensuring timely warning to mitigate disaster risk.
If we have to buy satellite images we have to wait for two days to have the pictures. But with our own satellite, we can have them after 6 to 12 hours and thus can clearly identify locations of disasters and their performance.
I want people to understand that aerospace technology is not something vague and abstract. In fact, it has quite practical impacts as I've just said. Young people should get used to it and consider pursuing this path, just like any other fields, just like finance or banking.
What is the current development of Viet Nam's aerospace field?
Viet Nam showed its interest in aerospace technology in 1978 when the country's leaders decided that one Vietnamese would take part in the flight into the space together with other Soviet Union astronauts. The flight took place in 1980 and Nguyen Tuan was the first Vietnamese citizen in space.
Viet Nam launched its first communication satellite VINASAT-1 in April 2008 and the second one, VINASAT-2, in 2012.
In 2012 the country also established the Viet Nam Space Center, and successfully launched the VNREDSat-1 - the first observation satellite for natural resources, environment and disaster monitoring the next year. It was also for the first time that we have a made-in-Viet Nam micro satellite, Pico Dragon, in the space.
Those were the major achievements of Viet Nam's aerospace sector. Though we have to admit that we are still 40 to 50 years behind other countries in the world in this field, we do have certain initial success. I believe we would catch up with them in no time.
Are you afraid that investing in such a complicated field would be risky when Viet Nam's technology foundation is still low?
In June 2006, the Prime Minister has approved "The Strategy for Research and Application of Space Technology of Viet Nam until 2020" which identifies objectives, contents and solutions for space technology applications until 2020 for the social-economic development of Viet Nam.
The project on the Viet Nam Space Center has been launched and I believe by 2020 we will have observation satellites that Viet Nam can be proud of.
I usually think satellite images are like crude oil – one we can exploit them effectively, they can be consumed anywhere in the world.
Can you talk more about the Viet Nam Space Center?
The project of the Viet Nam Space Center consists of three main components: infrastructure building, human resources development and sending staff abroad for training.
The Viet Nam Space Center will master the technology of small earth observation satellite, be able to observe the whole territory of Viet Nam in any weather conditions with modern radar technology.
The Center will be intensively and comprehensively invested aiming to the ability to self-design and manufacture satellites.
The center will be open to public. Those who are interested in science and technology, especially aerospace technology can come and see with their own eyes satellite models, phases of satellite manufacturing, the screen of satellites monitoring, etc.
The centre will be finished by 2018. It is considered the most modern space centre in the South. — VNS