China has started the experiment that will give participants an idea how it is like to live for a period of time in a space station on the moon or another planet, where everything is recycled.
China's Lunar Plans
China plans to send a probe to the dark side of the moon and this could happen as early as next year. It also plans to send astronauts to the lunar surface by 2036 and these astronauts will stay on the moon longer than other astronauts of earlier moon missions did.
As part of the Lunar Palace 365 Project, which explores how humans can create self-sustaining ecosystems needed to survive beyond Earth, four students from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics on Sunday, July 9, entered China's Lunar Palace-1, a 160-square-meter bioregenerative life-support base in one of Beijing's suburbs. The students will attempt to live self-sufficiently in this base for 200 days.
Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Professor Liu Hong, who is also the principal architect of the project, said that everything humans need for survival has been carefully considered.
"We've designed it so the oxygen (produced by plants at the station) is exactly enough to satisfy the humans, the animals, and the organisms that break down the waste materials," she said.
Liu Hong nonetheless acknowledged the mental effect of being confined in a small space for a long time. She said that the participants of the experiment can become depressed and psychological problems can arise in people who spend a long time in these types of environment. The students, however, are given everyday tasks with the aim of keeping their spirits up.
The students will recycle everything from leftover plant matter to their own waste in the Lunar Palace-1. The group will also be evaluated to see their reaction to living without sunlight for a period of time. Liu said that they have conducted this type of experiment on animals and want to see the effects on humans.
China is evidently trying to catch up in the space race. The East Asian nation has recently launched to first X-ray space telescope designed to study gamma-ray bursts, black holes, and pulsars.
In December 2016, China released a white paper that revealed its plans for space activities over the next five years, which includes landing a probe on the moon next year and sending a probe to planet Mars by the year 2020. This year alone, the country plans to conduct 30 space missions.