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May 12, 2017

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Students test Lunar Palace life-support base

CHINESE students will live in a laboratory simulating a lunar-like environment for up to 200 days as China prepares for its long-term goal of putting humans on the moon.

The four postgraduate students from the Beijing’s astronautics research university Beihang have volunteered to entered a 160-square-meter cabin, dubbed the “Yuegong-1,” or “Lunar Palace” on Wednesday and will live in the sealed lab to simulate a long-term, self-contained space mission with no input from the outside world.

Human waste will be treated with a bio-fermentation process, while experimental crops and vegetables will be grown with the help of food and waste byproducts.

China does not expect to land its first astronauts on the moon for at least another decade, but the project seeks to help the country prepare lunar explorers for longer stays on the surface.

Two men and two women entered the lab for an initial stay of 60 days.

They will then be replaced by another group of four, who will stay for 200 days, before returning for an additional stay of 105 days.

The Lunar Palace has two plant cultivation modules and a living cabin of 42 square meters which contains four bed cubicles, a common room, a bathroom, a waste-treatment room and a room for raising animals.

Tasks or jobs have been distributed evenly to each student and they will be handed responsibilities such as: treating solid waste, urine, shredding straw, threshing wheat, processing food, crop growing, health monitoring and supply inventory. A similarly successful 105-day trial was conducted in 2014.

The Lunar Palace is the world’s third bioregenerative life-support base, and the first developed in China.

It is the only such facility to involve animals and micro-organisms as well as plants and humans, its chief designer Liu Hong said, calling it “the first of its kind.”

China is pouring billions into its space program and working to catch up with the United States and Europe, with hopes to have a crewed outpost by 2022.

Last month, China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, successfully completed docking with an orbiting space lab.


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