Four biomedicine students from Beihang University spent 200 days in a simulated space lab in China's capital city, Beijing, as part of an experiment to test the possible effects of staying on the moon for an extended period of time.

Longest Stay In A Self-Contained Cabin

The volunteers make up the second group of volunteers to stay in the Yuegong-1, or Lunar Palace 1. They completed the second phase of a 365-day experiment on Friday, setting a record for the longest stay in a self-contained "cabin."

The first group, who earlier stayed in the cabin for 60 days, re-entered the cabin on Friday to take the place of the second group. Their stay will mark the start of the third and final phase of the experiment that will last for 105 days.

Assessing The Physical And Mental Effects Of Living In Confined Space

The experiment aims to determine the effects of the confined environment on the mental and physical conditions of humans.

Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics professor and module's chief designer Liu Hong, and colleagues who work on the project cited the potential effects of being confined in a small space for an extended period of time. The participants, for instance, can become depressed and psychological problems may arise.

Unexpected Blackouts

She said that the experiment tested the volunteers to the limit particularly on three occasions when the lab had an unexpected blackout. The longest blackout, which was caused by a malfunction of an electric switch, lasted a whole night. It luckily occurred in the evening, so the volunteers just went to bed.

"The longer-than-ever stage, during which time three unexpected blackouts happened, has challenged the system as well as the psychological status of the volunteers, but they withstood the test," Liu said.

Bioregenerative Life Support System

The experiment also wants to determine how the Bioregenerative Life Support System, where animals, plants, and microorganisms co-exist, works in a lunar environment.

Water and food can be recycled within this system, creating an environment similar to that of the Earth. Human waste goes through a bio-fermentation process while the volunteers grow crops and vegetables using food and waste by-products.

"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," Liu Hong earlier said.

China may not be sending astronauts to the moon in the near future. The project, however, aims to help prepare lunar explorers for longer stays on the lunar surface.

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