China Simulates Lunar-like Environment
China has set up a 160-square-meter (1,720-square-foot) laboratory — dubbed as “Yuegong-1”, or “Lunar Palace” for simulating a lunar-like environment. Four Postgraduate students from the Beijing’s astronautics research university will live in the laboratory for up to 200 days in a bid to prepare for China’s long term goal of putting humans on the moon. The student volunteers would be sealed inside the cabin with no input from the outside world in order to simulate long-term, self-contained space mission. The cabin will have facilities for treatment of human wastes through bio-fermentation process. The experimental crops would also be grown in the laboratory with the help of food and waste byproducts. The cabin according to Chinese agencies represents the “world’s most advanced closed-loop life-support technology so far.” The Lunar Palace is hailed as the world’s third bio-regenerative life-support base and the first to be developed in China.
The Lunar Palace is the first of its kind facility to involve animals and microorganisms as well as plants and humans. It has two plant cultivation modules and a living cabin consisting of four bed cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals. Initially, a group of four students comprising two men and two women will be sealed inside the cabin for an initial stay of 60 days who will then be replaced by another group of four, who will stay for 200 days. Though, China does not have any plans to land its astronauts on moon for at least another decade, this project is expected to help it prepare lunar explorers for longer stays on the surface of the moon.
China views the programme as a mark of its raising global stature and as a step to catch up with the United States and Europe. Recently, China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, successfully docked with an orbiting space lab. However, so far China has been largely replicating the activities carried out by the U.S. and Soviet Union decades ago. It was hailed as a major step towards China’s ambition of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022.
China has an ambitious plan of building a permanent space station by 2022 that will be in the orbit for at least 10 years. In May 2014, China conducted a 105-day experiment by placing a team comprising of two women and one man from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (BUAA) in ‘Moon Palace 1’, a 160-square-meter self-contained laboratory with an intention to prepare for placing astronauts in outer space for extended periods of time.