Now In Shenzhen: Gravity Innovation wants to inspire the next generation of astronauts

3 min read

This is the final post of “Now in Shenzhen”, where TechNode visits a handful of Shenzhen-based companies leveraging Shenzhen’s core strength: manufacturing. 

The great thing about technology is that it raises awareness of people and inspires. 24-year-old CEO of Gravity Innovation wants to encourage young students to get interested in space with their connected rocket lamp and a mobile application called SpaceGo.

“More people want to get into space. I don’t want just to hear “wow”, but I want them to enjoy and participate in this movement. That’s what we are doing now. The problem of space education is that there is nothing after saying “amazing”,” Romax Ren, CEO of Gravity Innovation, told TechNode.

The Gravity Innovation team is made up of a senior practitioner in the aerospace industry, a star content creator in the science field, as well as practitioners of STEM education.

They have developed a rocket-like lamp that will be launched on Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in July, during the launch of the Falcon heavy rocket. By lighting the lamp, users can have experience of shooting a rocket in their rooms. The flame will light up slowly from top to bottom, with a lifelike sound. To watch the live streaming of the next rocket launch, users can set an alarm clock or play music using the matching app.

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SpaceGo App (Image Credit: Gravity Innovation)

The market is huge. On Reddit, there are 11 million fans in the theme “space”. Each Houston space center has 1 million visitors and earns US$ 73 million of revenue every year. Tencent also started its space topic website Tencent Space (腾讯太空), trying to raise awareness of space to Chinese netizens.

Tencent space

Three years ago, less than 500 thousand people watched the Chang’e-3 (嫦娥三号) launch live. Today, there were more than 16 million netizens on Tencent Space who watched the live streaming of the Tianzhou-1 (天舟一号) launch on April 20th.

To allow more children and space fans to join the rocket launching process in a more interactive and innovative way, SpaceGo has an AR feature, where a user can see their rocket lamp actually launching towards the sky through their phone or tablet screen when they point their camera at the lamp. Other functions include flying to Mars, launching satellites into earth orbit, or taking pictures of the earth from space in real-time.

China’s space odyssey

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Rocket Lamp created by Gravity Innovation (Image Credit: Gravity Innovation)

“China’s space technology at the moment is second in this world. The US is the first when it comes to space technology. Obama dropped the Lunar project, but Trump resumed Lunar it. This is the weak point of NASA, that its project operation is not consistent,” Romax points out.

The number of China’s launches has really taken off, starting from the early 90’s. From 1990 to 1995, China only carried out 20 rocket launches, and from 2011-2016, China carried out 110 rocket launches.  China now ranks the first in the world in terms of the number of rocket launches, with a national record 22 times during 2016.

This is powered by China’s young workforce in space organizations and research centers. China’s space organization has a younger generation of people with its 33 years old average age, while NASA is witnessing aging workforce problem with that of NASA now 47 years old.

“In the US, now more people want to work at Google and fewer people want to work in space. You have a better advantage working in China. After 2020, China will be the only country with ISS (International Space Station),” Romax says.

Space education should be cool

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Romax Ren, CEO of Gravity Innovation (Image Credit: TechNode)

Regardless of China’s public interest and China’s space technology now skyrocketing, turning public support into real enthusiasm is not easy. China’s space education improvement and the establishment of private space organizations are in need.

“In the space education of children, China is falling behind 20 years,” Romax says. “From 1990 till now, space education has not changed. The way to teach people has not developed at all. But people’s expectation and technology development in the consumer market have gone further.”

Romax believes that Gravity Innovation’s rocket lamp and AR app can serve as an intimate educational tool to foster future space talents in China. He himself is also one of the younger generation of post-90s who started his company to pursue his dreams in space. Now 24-years-old Romax is leading the NASA group in Shenzhen and has official contacts with NASA. He has experience in Makeblock, Shenzhen-based STEM company, leading the development of four products.

“I want to encourage more people to take part in space. China also needs a private space organization like SpaceX. Many fans are interested in SpaceX, they are very active and it’s a hot topic,” he says. “If we have a private space organization, it can make a huge difference from what the government is supporting this part.”