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June 18, 2016

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Volunteers say ‘goodbye to Earth’ in space simulation experiment

FOUR volunteers are spending the next 180 days in a sealed cabin in south China’s Shenzhen to test technologies that might prove useful in China’s deep-space exploration projects.

The three men and one woman will find out how air, food and water can be recycled to provide a self-sufficient living environment that could enable lengthy stays in space without relying on supplies from Earth.

The experiment, which began yesterday, is based on technologies used on China’s Shenzhou spacecraft.

Scientists have cultivated 25 kinds of plants in the 1,340-cubic-meter sealed capsule, which has a floor area of 370 square meters, including wheat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, soybeans, peanuts, lettuce, edible amaranth and pak choi. Strawberries, cherries, tomatoes and horseradish are also being grown.

The plants are part of a larger ecological treatment system that will help regenerate oxygen and water, reducing dependency on outside supplies.

The cabin is equipped with a 3D food printer, which can even make traditional Chinese food such as mooncakes, according to a CCTV report. It also said the volunteers will have to get used to washing without water as astronauts cannot enjoy a bath as on Earth.

Scientists will monitor how an isolated environment affects physiological changes, biological rhythms, sleep patterns and emotional wellbeing in the four volunteers selected from 2,110 candidates.

They are Tang Yongkang and Tong Feizhou, researchers at the Astronaut Center of China, and Luo Jie and Wu Shiyun, who were recruited during a selection process that was open to the public.

More than a dozen Chinese and overseas institutions are involved in the experiment, including the Space Institute of Southern China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the German Aerospace Center.


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