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Scientists Say China's Quantum Communication Satellite Marks Important Milestone

Aug 19, 2016

 

File photo taken on July 27, 2016 shows technical staff install solar wing for the experimental quantum communication satellite at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province. The world's first quantum communication satellite, which China is preparing to launch, has been given the moniker "Micius," after a fifth century B.C. Chinese scientist, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced Monday. According to CAS, the quantum satellite will conduct experiments on high-speed quantum key distribution between the satellite and ground stations, as well as explore quantum teleportation for the first time in the world. (Xinhua)  

China successfully launched the world's first quantum satellite earlier this week and scientists in different parts of the world have expressed their admiration for their Chinese colleagues for staging the feat, which they described as an important milestone for quantum communication.

"It is a noble and difficult endeavor and I applaud the Chinese Academy of Sciences for its vision," said Spyridon Michalakis, a quantum scientist from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

"The launch of the first satellite to carry technology capable of space-based quantum cryptography is an important milestone towards the creation of a space-based quantum internet," the Caltech quantum researcher told Xinhua.

The launch also has the potential to "transform the face of cloud-based computing and even science as we know it," he added.

The latest breakthrough in China's Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) program also serves as a reminder that "collaboration between countries, such as Austria and China in this case, can lead to results that are often more impressive than those based on competition alone," said Michalakis.

Daniel Oi, physicist from Britain's University of Strathclyde, believes what China has done has the potential to help global efforts to develop secure networks.

"The data and experience gathered from the mission would be very useful for future development, especially how to overcome the challenges of sending quantum signals over long distances, much greater than has been achieved previously."

Oi, who is on a UK-Singapore quantum program, said the Chinese project "would show the underlying feasibility of satellite quantum communication hence reducing the risk that may sometimes discourage funding agencies from supporting cutting edge research, especially space missions that can be costly and take a long time to develop."

Hopefully, the launch of quantum communication satellite, nicknamed Micius after an ancient Chinese philosopher, will also spur more interest into space quantum technologies in general, Oi said.

Meanwhile, his teammate Alexander Ling, also principal investigator at the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that China's successful launch of the satellite would make hacking more difficult.

"It moves the challenge for an eavesdropper to a different domain," said Ling, "Lots of people around the world think having secure communications at a quantum level is important. The Europeans, the Americans had the lead, but now the Chinese are showing the way forward."

Kubatbek Tekeshov, head of the department of information and communication technology in Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture, also highlighted China's leading position in this field.

Scientists in several countries are working on quantum communication technologies, but China's successful launch of the world's first quantum communication satellite showed that the country is indeed a front-runner, he noted.

The successful launch of Micius marked a watershed moment whereby quantum communication is no longer a theory, but a reality, he said.

"With the help of quantum we have the opportunity to move particles. Now the scientific community can confidently say that China has made a great leap forward, and opened a new era for all mankind," Tekeshov said. (Xinhua)

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