China's hunt for aliens boosted by enormous FAST telescope

The final piece of China’s Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, aka FAST, has been hoisted into position over the weekend, completing what will be the world's largest radio telescope.

Chinese state media said it will bolster the country’s space exploration powers and and help in the hunt for extra-terrestrial life.

The telescope is the size of 30 football fields and has been hewed out of a mountain in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Scientists will now start debugging and trialling the telescope’s capabilities, said Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation.

"The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extra-terrestrial life," Zheng said.

The 1.2bn yuan (£113m) radio telescope would be a global leader for the next one to two decades, he added. The telescope, which has taken five years to build, is expected to begin operations in September.

Advancing China's space programme is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China's ambitions include putting a man on the moon by 2036 and building a space station, work on which has already begun.

China recently started fast-tracking development on a Martian rover which is expected to be launched in 2020, with hopes of it reaching the Red Planet by 2021. 

It insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, but the US Defense Department has highlighted China's increasing space capabilities, saying it is pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

Various telescope construction projects are currently underway across the world.

The Giant Magellan Telescope is currently being built in Chile and will have a resolution 10 times that of the Hubble spacecraft once it is completed in 2024.

However, a similar construction project in Hawaii, called the Thirty Meter Telescope, has been beset by delays due to repeated protests by Native Hawaiians and environmentalists.

China's FAST telescope infographic

FAST telescope infographic  

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