Now that the presidential and legislative elections are over, a new administration and a new legislative body are expected.
However, the new governing bodies are set to face stiff challenges from all fronts. Bringing the nation out of the economic doldrums that have lasted more than a decade is perhaps the most daunting task. The nation’s technology needs a makeover.
In the course of her election campaign, president-elect Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) delivered a five-prong policy: Internet of Things, green energy, biomedicine, precision mechanism and domestic defense technology.
A program encompassing all five should be considered. For example, the nation should consider building, in collaboration with the International Space Station’s (ISS) existing member nations, a small-scale Taiwanese space module for the ISS.
Building a space module, led by the government and with the support of the public sector, industrial sectors and educational institutes, would rejuvenate society and revitalize economic activity.
While the existing National Space Program Office and the Advanced Rocket Research Center in Hsinchu, headed by Wu Tsung-hsin (吳宗信), a professor of mechanical engineering at National Chiao-tung University, are small in scale and primitive in scope, they serve as a start point.
A space module program could develop the following: Sensor technology; advanced material; remote sensing/imaging; telemetry; wireless high-speed communication across wider spectrums including radio frequency and optical; agile complex control; power processing techniques; micro electro-mechanical structures; biological and medical instruments; and large-scale system modeling and simulation.
The goal of the program would be to deliver a space module equipped with advanced research apparatus and prototyping machinery.
The program might take eight to 10 years to complete. If carried through, it would fundamentally change Taiwan’s economic structure. It would also move, critically, the existing business away from foundries with low profit margins. More importantly, it would release the creative power of Taiwanese and in the process generate new job opportunities with high pay.
The program should plan to build two modules: a non-deliverable, engineering development model that could be used for educational purposes, and a second one that would be sent to the ISS.
The module should be cylindrical in shape — 3.05m in diameter and 4.27m in length; equivalent to a medium-sized van.
It should also be equipped to allow botanical studies and the development of new medical technologies.
Deciding on a name for the module could be made a national contest and the program could invite Taiwan’s high-school students to participate.
The Japanese Kibo module has been in service for quite some time. Taiwan should seek advice from its friendly neighbor.
The program should begin with a five-person team responsible for finding out, from the existing 16 member nations, the desired functions of a Taiwanese module.
There should be other scouting teams: a three-person team responsible for determining the geometry and basic structural needs; an 11-person team responsible for site selection and the planning of a high-bay, manufacturing facility; and a five-person team to recruit Taiwanese Astronaut Corp (10 members aged between 24 and 35) and to engage the public.
This is a call to arms for Taiwan’s economy. Taiwan must no longer chain itself to non-innovative manufacturing. Taiwan must head to space.
Kengchi Goah is a senior research fellow at the Taiwan Public Policy Council in the US.
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